Sitting Raises Your Blood Sugar

Standing desk




A recent study finds that individuals who sat for a prolonged period of time had trouble controlling their blood sugar, interestingly intermittent standing brought blood sugar under control.






Advocates for standing desks continue to be backed by further evidence demonstrating the harmful effects of prolonged sitting. The latest research on the subject found that not only was standing beneficial, but it actually was superior to a moderate exercise bout in controlling blood sugar levels after a meal.

The study was published last November in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. The study (Intermittent Standing but not a Moderate Exercise Bout Reduces Postprandial Glycemia, 2017. Benatti FB, et al.) randomized 14 physically inactive healthy adult males to four different physical activity groups: prolonged sitting for 9 hours, 9 hours of alternating between sitting and standing every 15 minutes, prolonged sitting for 8.5 hours with a 30-minute moderate-intensity treadmill run, and a combination group consisting of a 30-minute moderate-intensity treadmill run and sitting with 15 minute standing breaks every half hour for 8 hours. Participants were excluded if they had a known diagnosis of diabetes. The researchers found that glucose levels following breakfast (postprandial) on the day of the intervention were lower in all groups with standing and/or moderate physical activity compared to the group with 9 hours of continuos sitting. Interestingly, when the researchers looked at glucose control after breakfast on the day after the sitting or exercise intervention they found that the group that had intermittent standing, but not the group that had a moderate bout of physical activity, had superior glucose control. This finding may suggest that intermittent standing may have a longer protective effect rather than a single bout of moderate physical activity on glycemic control. 

The mechanism by which standing mediates improvements in glycemic control are thought to originate from the contracting muscle in the legs during standing taking up glucose and fatty acids. This increases the sensitivity of body tissues to insulin, which is the hormone that mediates uptake of glucose from the blood. This study did not find any effect of standing on fat and lipid control in the blood following eating. Further work may be necessary to determine the effect of standing on other health indicators such as hypertension.

Indeed, many individuals follow a schedule of a single daily episode of physical activity followed by prolonged sitting at home and/or work for the remainder of the day. In terms of glucose control, which is a marker of diabetes mellitus, it appears that a trip to the gym in the morning is not enough to cancel out a day of sitting. Intermittent standing appears to be a solution. 

How can one incorporate intermittent standing into their daily lives? In many ways, its easier than a trip to the gym in the morning. A standing desk is probably the most obvious solution, but there are other simple lifestyle changes one can make. For example, while watching TV consider using commercial breaks as an excuse to stand up from the couch. Or, while at the office, set a timer on your phone or watch to remind you to stand up every half hour. Such reminders come standard on many smartwatches now.

With that being said, its time to stand up!

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