Findings from the ACUTE Study
Why did we do the research?
The number of people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes is increasing rapidly and about 2.6 million people in the UK currently have diabetes. Having Type 2 diabetes puts people at a high risk of having heart problems, kidney failure and complications resulting from nerve damage in the eyes and feet.
With this in mind, our research team was interested in developing new ways to prevent diabetes. There is emerging evidence suggesting that spending prolonged periods sitting (commonly defined as sedentary time) is unhealthy and may increase the risk of diabetes. We were keen to find out whether reducing the amount of time people spend sitting and replacing it with standing and/or walking reduced the amount of sugar and fat in their blood, therefore reducing the risk of diabetes. This study was designed to answer these questions.
What did we do?
In total, we recruited 34 participants (all women), with 22 going on to complete the study. The study involved visiting the Leicester Diabetes Centre and undergoing two of the following three conditions in a random order (each condition lasted 7.5 hours):
- Prolonged sitting
- Sitting with 5-minute bouts of standing every 30 minutes
- Sitting with 5-minute bouts of walking every 30 minutes
The day after each condition, participants came back to the department to undergo the prolonged sitting condition, regardless of what they had done on the previous day.
What did we find?
We found that when people broke up sitting time every 30 minutes by standing or walking for 5 minutes they had lower sugar levels in their blood (also called glucose) across the course of the day. When sitting was broken up participants also had lower levels of insulin in their blood. Insulin is produced by the pancreas and it causes sugar to move from the blood into cells where it can be used for energy. This helps to lower sugar levels in the blood. We also found that these changes carried over into the next day, so the effects lasted at least 24 hours.
What do these findings mean?
This is the first study in the world to show that both standing and walking reduce sugar and insulin levels. This simple approach could inform future public health programmes aimed at improving the health of individuals like you.
What will we do next?
We would like to repeat these tests using slightly different measures to try and understand why standing and walking makes such a difference to sugar and insulin levels and whether similar results occur in men.
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