Preventing type 2 diabetes—considered one of the most common lifestyle diseases worldwide—can take a combination of strategies to keep blood sugar regulated, including healthy foods and regular exercise. But a recent study in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport highlights one tactic that does not take much effort—stand up.
All participants in the study were at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. When participants in the study stood up, they showed better insulin sensitivity, a result that has not been shown before in this population, according to study co-author Taru Garthwaite, Ph.D. (c), of the University of Turku in Finland.
“These findings should encourage people to replace part of their daily sitting time withstanding more often,” she says. “That’s especially true if someone isn’t meeting physical activity recommendations.”
About the Study
Researchers looked at 64 sedentary men and women with metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions including high blood pressure and larger waist circumference, which tend to put people at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes as well as heart disease and stroke.
Their insulin sensitivity was measured while sitting, standing, and being physically active. This is important since insulin is a key hormone in energy metabolism and blood sugar regulation, and when sensitivity is impaired, it can lead to a state of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Participants saw improvements in whole-body insulin sensitivity when they stood up, likely because of the muscle use required for standing.
Although standing shows a surprising amount of benefits on its own, Dr. Garthwaite emphasizes that you get even more advantages from regular exercise. Surprisingly, those in the study who did moderate-to-vigorous exercise didn’t have immediate insulin sensitivity, but she says that can happen over time through changed body composition.
For example, losing weight can help metabolism, including blood sugar regulation, and exercise can play a significant role in that weight management, she notes.
“This means exercise provides a more indirect effect compared to standing, which has a more direct effect on insulin sensitivity,” says Dr. Garthwaite.
Previous research indicates that even if you already have diabetes, exercise can play a role in better condition management. A position statement by the American Diabetes Association notes that physical activity not only improves blood glucose control for those with type 2 diabetes but also reduces cardiovascular risk factors and improves an overall feeling of well-being.
This is true for a range of exercises, they add, including walking, jogging, cycling, and swimming. You will also benefit from strength training, tai chi, balance exercises, and yoga.