Can Sitting Give You Diabetes?

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Diabetes and overall chronic disease are more likely in men who sit for extended periods

February 18, 2013 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

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(dailyRx News) Are you sitting too much these days? This type of inactivity increases the risk of developing chronic and potentially deadly diseases. Try taking a walk today.

Regular physical activity has the potential to reduce the likelihood of getting heart disease, hypertension and cancer. Recent research from Australia has added further evidence that leading an active life is good for you.

This study found that men who sat too much were more prone to developing diabetes.

"Exercise daily to avoid chronic disease."

Emma George, PhD, a researcher at University of Western Sydney, School of Science & Health, authored the report with Richard Rosenkranz, assistant professor in the Department of Human Nutrition at Kansas State University and Gregory Kolt, dean of the University of Western Sydney, School of Science & Health.

The scientists focused their investigation on men, who have higher rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease compared to women.

Researchers analyzed information on 63,048 Australian males, who were 45 to 64 years old. The authors wrote that physical activity tends to decrease with age while sitting time tends to increase. They also noted that almost three-quarters of the participants were overweight or obese.

Participants sitting four hours to eight hours or more were significantly more likely to report ever having any chronic disease or diabetes compared to those sitting less than four hours per day.

Compared to those sitting less than four hours, the likelihood of having diabetes was 12 percent greater among men who sat four to six hours; 19 percent greater among those who sat six to eight hours; and 15 percent greater among those who sat more than eight hours.

“Independent of physical activity, BMI, and additional covariates, sitting time was significantly associated with diabetes and overall chronic disease in this sample of Australian males,” wrote the authors. “As the Australian population ages, and chronic diseases become more prevalent, it is imperative that health professionals and policy makers consider the underlying factors influencing these conditions. Our findings suggest that sitting time is a distinct lifestyle factor that may be considered in efforts to decrease chronic disease in middle-aged Australian males.”

Sarah Samaan, MD, cardiologist and physician partner at the Baylor Heart Hospital in Plano, Texas, told dailyRX News, “In our tech-heavy world, sitting at a desk—eyes glued to the computer screen—has become business as usual. We also see this problem in truck drivers. The problem is that humans were not designed to endure this nearly motionless behavior. Our muscles, lungs and hearts work at their best when we are moving.”

Dr. Samaan recommends that workers try to take a good 10 minute walk break every couple of hours, and to try to get 20 to 30 minutes of activity at lunchtime.

“Sitting at a desk for hours on end also can encourage mindless snacking and sipping,” added Dr. Samaan, who is author of Best Practices for a Healthy Heart: How to Stop Heart Disease Before or After it Starts, “so it's important to be aware of that tendency and limit snacks to healthy options and avoid sodas altogether.”

The study was published in February in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

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Review Date: 
February 14, 2013
Last Updated:
August 16, 2013