Every hour you sit can increase your diabetes risk by more than a fifth, according to new research

The more we sit down, the greater our risk we of developing type-2 diabetes, with researchers finding that every extra hour spent sedentary increased the odds of type-2 diabetes by 22%. Crucially, they found that the damage couldn’t be undone by intense exercise.

In the study, published this month in the journal Diabetologia, 2,497 Danish men and women with an average age of 60 wore an accelerometer on their thigh for 8 consecutive days to accurately and objectively measure the daily amount participants spent in different postures (sitting or lying, standing and stepping). Participants were given a standard glucose tolerance test after an overnight fast to determine the diabetes status – over half of the participants (55.9%) had normal glucose metabolism, 15.5% and impaired glucose metabolism and 28.6% had type 2 diabetes.

In Britain, we spend about 9-hours a day sedentary – a trend replicated in the new study. Although the participants with diabetes had the most sedentary time, they were only sedentary for up to 26-minutes more than those without diabetes. That’s the equivalent to getting up from your desk for 3 or 4 minutes each hour of your eight hour working day – about the time it takes to walk to the kitchen to get a drink. And, just think how many minutes you could knock off your sedentary time if you stood up and paced back-and-forth behind your desk every time you made a phone call.

Leading a physically active lifestyle is known to reduce your risk of developing type-2 diabetes, but there’s more to physical activity than the 150-minutes of moderate or 75-minutes of vigorous activity a week recommended in the government guidelines. This is why we take a multidimensional view of physically activity, to make sure we are looking at all the different dimensions of physical activity that impact your health. And, this is the reason our use of personalised physical activity in a free-living environment has been included in an NHS Innovation Test Bed – the Diabetes Digital Coach, led by our partners at the West of England Academic Health Sciences Network.

Simply put, we need to be more active and sit less every day to give us the best chance of avoiding type-2 diabetes. Break up sedentary time with something active, like walking to see your colleague instead of sending them an email, not only will this reduce your sedentary time, it’ll also increase your daily active minutes. Also, you could try going for a 10-minute walk at lunch or getting off the bus a stop early and walking the rest of the way to increase your moderate bouts. It all about finding the activities that you enjoy, that fit into your lifestyle and that “count” for you.

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