Sitting in front of a work computer during the daily 9-5. Sitting to chat with a friend. Sitting to eat dinner. According to a new University of Florida study, the amount of time some people spend sitting could affect whether they develop type 2 diabetes later in life. Women who sat more than 16 hours during their waking day had the highest risk of developing diabetes. The researchers also found that the high risk of diabetes remained even if they otherwise exercised five days a week, 30 minutes per day.
“This would give you some evidence that your sitting is a risk factor for what is going to happen in the future, similar to the way your cholesterol today will predict if you will get a heart attack tomorrow,” said Dr. Todd Manini, who led the study. Dr. Manini is an assistant professor in the University of Florida College of Medicine department of aging and geriatric research and a member of the UF Institute on Aging.
Dr. Manini and colleagues also found that obese women were much more likely to develop diabetes than overweight and normal-weight women who sat for the same amount of time.
The UF researchers examined surveys from 88,829 women aged 50-79, none of whom initially were taking medications for diabetes. The researchers tracked their sitting time and weight in each annual survey, and noted which women developed diabetes. In general, nearly 11 percent of women ages 20 and older have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association, and nearly 27 percent of people over 65 will develop diabetes, according to the National Diabetes Education Program.
The study participants’ responses were broken into eight categories, with two extremes: women who sat fewer than seven hours per day and women who sat more than 16 hours per day.
“With computers, our jobs have gotten progressively more sedentary. One percent of women in the original study reported sitting more than 16 hours per day. We might expect those numbers to be higher today,” Dr. Manini said.
The longer the women sat, the higher their risk for developing diabetes. Their risk began increasing sharply when they sat between 12 and 15 hours per day. These women had about a 10 percent chance of developing diabetes compared to about 8 percent or less for women who sat for shorter periods of time. If the women sat more than 16 hours per day, the risk rose to about 13 percent.