Is our sedentary lifestyle causing diabetes?
We live in a world that values convenience in all of its forms. From takeout meals scarfed down in front of the TV to weekend Netflix binges lasting for hours on end, our lives have become increasingly sedentary. With the rise of working from home, the case for physical activity has only grown weaker, as have our muscles.
In a study conducted by the American Heart Association, scientists determined that 59% of adults spend at least four hours a day sitting down, while 26% admitted to sedentary behavior for six hours or more daily. That’s a whopping 42 hours a week! Not only does the lack of movement quickly put us out of shape, but it also poses a danger to our health, possibly inducing diabetes type two and obesity.
It’s simple. The less active we are, the more unhealthy choices we make by consuming too many calories from food that’s bad for us. Think about it — who sits through a marathon of The Fast and The Furious eating celery sticks? The real problem with a sedentary lifestyle is that it usually creeps up on us unnoticed. While it may not seem like a whole lot, just two hours a day spent in front of the TV makes us 14% more likely to suffer from diabetes. To understand the connection better, let’s take a look at what diabetes is and how it develops in our organism.
How exactly does a sedentary lifestyle promote diabetes?
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Kidney Diseases, diabetes type two is the most common form of the illness. Symptoms include thirst and urination, hunger, fatigue, a numbing sensation in the hands and feet, sores that don’t heal, and blurred vision. The good news is that diabetes type two is heavily dependant on our lifestyle and environment. The bad news is that if we aren’t active enough and give in to a sedentary lifestyle, we are very likely to fall ill.
Here’s how it works: spending the majority of our time sitting at a desk or lying on the couch leads to inactivity. This causes us to gain weight because we end up consuming more calories than we burn. These calories accumulate in the form of glucose, waiting to be processed. Our pancreas produces insulin to break down glucose and distribute it to the rest of our body as fuel.
If we have a regular surplus of calories, our system can’t keep pumping enough insulin, and we end up with too much glucose, which directly causes diabetes. While junk food like pizza and ice cream is certainly more detrimental because it’s loaded with sugar and calories, even a clean diet of turkey breast sandwiches can mess up our insulin production if we eat more than we burn due to a sedentary lifestyle.
Folks in the age group of 50 and up are particularly susceptible to this health hazard, as our body becomes less efficient in responding properly to insulin with time.
A sedentary lifestyle increases the offset of diabetes by 112%
A closer look at the diabetes-sedentary lifestyle connection reveals the facts, and they are frightening. In an extensive study of 505,045 participants, both Dr. Marc and Deborah Hamilton, along with Dr. Zderic, determined that we are 112% more likely to suffer from diabetes type two if we don’t get enough physical activity.
There is an important distinction to be made here — too little exercise is not the same as too much inactivity. Adults who exercised for at least 150 minutes weekly but spent the majority of their day sitting down were just as likely to suffer from diabetes as those who never exercised! So the pressing question is, what can we do to offset the detrimental effects of a sedentary lifestyle and prevent diabetes?
4 effective ways to disrupt your sedentary lifestyle and avoid diabetes
How can we protect ourselves and ensure we remain in good health despite spending eight hours at our desk daily? Here are four actionable steps to take today.
1. Fit in a gym session or a jog before work
Getting some movement first thing in the morning will do wonders for your physical health and boost your mood, too. According to a study, exercising before breakfast is one of the most powerful ways to burn fat. Fasted cardio or resistance training increases fat oxidation for up to 24 hours. That means if you head to the gym or go for a jog around the block right after waking up, you will burn extra calories and reduce your risk of having diabetes. Not only that, but an active start to your day sets the tone for increased physical activity throughout.
2. Break up your day into two-hour increments
An effective trick to avoid spending half of your day in a seated position is to get up and walk around the office or up and down the stairs every two hours. Frequently breaking out of a stationary position will stretch your muscles and improve blood flow. You don’t need to go far; just get moving. If you can’t leave the office, go to the break room and do squats and lunges for five minutes.
3. Try a standing desk
The modern-day office is a part of the problem contributing to our sedentary lifestyle. While the sit-down desk had been the norm for decades, a new form of equipment — the stand-up desk — is making a debut as a tool to help employees be more active. If you have the chance to buy one, try a stand-up desk and use it for at least four hours a day.
4. Bike or walk to work instead of driving
While we spend most of our day at work, we have absolute control over our time before and after. Instead of taking the subway or driving home, opt for a walk or a bike ride. This way, you’ll maintain a good level of activity while actually getting somewhere instead of mindlessly pounding the treadmill, if that’s not your thing. With the rise in popularity of biking and the installation of more lanes around major cities worldwide, being active on the way to work has never been easier.
A sedentary lifestyle will not only make us obese and sick. The consequences could be downright deadly. The good news is that you have the power to shift your daily habits and take actionable steps today to promote a healthy body and a sane mind.