Regular physical activity has many benefits for our health. However, despite this knowledge, physical inactivity is common, especially among adults with type 2 diabetes. In addition, being unfit is harmful to health by causing insulin resistance – an impaired response to one’s own naturally-occurring insulin. This results in higher levels of sugar in the blood.

Spending too much time sitting harms health

It is less well known whether certain behaviors, such as standing rather than sitting, can also improve health. In a new study, researchers from Finland recruited adults aged 40-65 years with insulin resistance (meaning that they were at risk of developing type 2 diabetes). The researchers used wearable devices to measure participants’ physical activity, including how often they were inactive and how much time they spent standing. They compared these with the participants’ fitness levels (using VO2 max to look at the maximum rate of oxygen their bodies were able to use during exercise), insulin resistance, and body fat.

Stand rather than sit at work and home

On average, each day, participants were inactive (sedentary) for 10 hours, standing for 1.8 hours, and physically active for 2.7 hours, taking about 5,149 steps daily. Researchers found that standing was linked to better insulin sensitivity, even when a person was inactive, unfit and/or had too much body fat. This is likely because muscle contraction required for standing helps make a person’s own insulin work more efficiently in those with insulin resistance.

This research suggests that simply standing more might be a potential way to improve health in sedentary high-risk populations. Standing can interrupt sitting for long periods of time, and is a safe and easy way to improve our overall health.


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