Could sofas and chairs be bad for your health? New research suggests that as time spent sitting goes up, so does a person's odds for type 2 diabetes.
Telling people to avoid sitting might even be more effective in staving off diabetes than exhorting them to exercise more, the British researchers said.
Patients are typically advised to do moderate-to-vigorous exercise for at least 150 minutes a week to stay fit and avoid obesity and diabetes. But the findings from two studies suggest that reducing sitting time by 90 minutes a day could provide important health benefits.
The findings were published in the journal Diabetologia.
Targeting the hours people typically spend sitting at home or at work might be a useful strategy in combating the diabetes epidemic, lead researcher leader Joseph Henson, of the University of Leicester, said in a journal news release. "Moreover, sedentary time occupies large portions of the day," unlike that typically devoted to exercise, Henson added.
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The research involved two studies encompassing 153 adults. One involved adults averaging 33 years of age, while the other involved older adults averaging age 65. In each study, the researchers compared time spent sitting or sedentary, as well as the amount of time engaged in moderate-to-vigorous exercise, against risk factors for diabetes.
The researchers found that time spent sitting was significantly linked to higher blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and other heart and diabetes risk factors, even after compensating for the amount of time spent exercising and the amount of body fat.
The findings can't prove a cause-and-effect relationship between sitting and diabetes. However, Henson said they do raise questions about what doctors should tell patients at high risk for diabetes.
"Diabetes and cardiovascular prevention programs concentrating solely on [exercise] may overlook an area that is of fundamental importance to cardiometabolic health," Henson said. Asking people to exercise more may help, but "such interventions may be more effective still if individuals are further encouraged to simply sit less and move more," he said.