Too Much Sitting: The Danger for Diabetics, and The Cure

Spending hours each day in a chair puts us at increased risk of just about any health problem you can think of.

Sitting more than eight hours per day has been linked to a 90 percent risk of type 2 diabetes. If you already have diabetes chronic sitting increases the likelihood of worsening symptoms, or the onset of heart disease.

It’s About Frequent Movement

Spending a chunk of time each day doing aerobic exercise is excellent for overall fitness, but does not counteract the effects of chronic sitting. When we sit still for more than an hour, muscular and cellular processes related to blood sugar, triglycerides, and cholesterol - processes mediated by insulin - begin to deactivate.

Carrying our own body weight, by standing and walking, reactivates these processes, which are also responsible for getting fuel into our cells.

So, to counteract the effects of our modern sedentary lifestyle, doctors and researchers are recommending two things:

  1. Adding more steps to our day.
  2. Getting up and moving about for at least a couple minutes every hour.

This recommendation is for everyone. Even if athletically fit, sitting much of the time negatively affects our health—this is especially true as we age.

Stepping It Up

The general guideline is to take 10,000 steps a day, which is approximately five miles worth of footfalls. A city block is about 200 steps, and a mile is roughly 2,000 of them. In ten minutes, most people step 1,200 times.

The goal for most of us is simply to add, say, 300 more steps to each day this week, and then another 300 per day next week, and so on. We can do this by making simple changes such as parking a couple blocks from stores, taking the stairs instead of elevators or escalators, or walking about the room while talking on the phone.

Maybe the best way to add steps is wearing a monitor or fitness tracker that measures them. Not only does this make individuals aware of exactly how many steps they take (or don’t take), it helps turn step-increase into a challenging and fun game.

Moving More Often

Getting up and walking around for a couple minutes each hour increases our lifespan by 33 percent. Some easy ways to get up and about are:

  • Set a timer reminding you to get up at least once per hour; stand, walk, or do some exercises for two to ten minutes.
  • Rearrange your office so that you must stand or walk to use the phone, printer/copier, or file cabinet - anything used frequently.
  • Sit in an upright wooden chair without arm rests. This will encourage frequent shifting, good posture, and the desire to get up and stretch your legs.
  • Opt to use a standing desk part of, or all day.
  • When you need to discuss something with a colleague or family member, suggest doing so while walking around the block, or around the office building.

Getting 10,000 steps each day is a basic requirement for general well-being. Though we need more vigorous exercise to be physically fit, those who are out of shape can hop on the road to fitness by increasing their daily steps.

Sources: Mayo Clinic; Mercola; Mercola
Photo credit: Ted Eytan

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