Does sitting down increase your chances of developing diabetes?

by Mark Benson on October 16, 2012

Does sitting down increase your chances of developing diabetes?

This week saw the publication of a combination of different studies into various health issues by the Diabetes Research Group at the University of Leicester. Rather than undertake a specific new study into diabetes and specific health issues the group took data from 18 different studies which involved around 795,000 people. There were some interesting pointers from this accumulation of data which seem to indicate a relationship between the amount of time you “sit down” to your chances of developing a whole range of medical conditions.

The study

The study took in data from 18 different research programmes from years gone by and looked at the specific risks associated with the likes of diabetes, heart disease, etc for those who spend prolonged amounts of time sitting down. This may include time work, time at home, socialising time, etc although the fact that individuals were sitting down for a prolonged period of time does seem to have an impact upon their chances of developing certain medical conditions with diabetes very prevalent in this data.

Interesting data

The accumulation of data seems to suggest that the average adult spends around 50% to 70% of their time sitting down. There would appear to be, at least on the surface, a direct correlation between the amount of time you sit down and your chances of developing certain medical conditions. But does this directly relate to sitting down or the fact that you are inactive?


There is no doubt that exercise plays a major role in how healthy you are as an individual and your chances of developing certain medical conditions in the future. You could automatically assume that the “sit down time” which is referred to by the University of Leicester report is effectively another way of saying you are inactive but this does not appear to be the case. It is unclear at this moment in time exactly what impact “sitting down” for a prolonged period of time does have on your body and your health but there does appear to be some kind of correlation.

If we do sit back, no pun intended, and review the amount of time each of us spends sitting down on a daily basis then this data may be a little alarming to many of us?

Reducing downtime

There is no doubt that the vast array of “downtime” is associated with work and home but scientists and doctors have come up with a number of very simple suggestions to reduce your chances of developing conditions such as diabetes. They believe that you should have standing meetings, go for a short walk during lunchtimes and as many of us will sit down to use our computers, when not using your computer you should place it on the top of a filing cabinet/cupboard to avoid any temptations.

There are obviously many things you can do with your free time at home rather than sit back and watch the television but on the flip side of the coin we do need to relax, we do need to chill out and we do need to slow down after a hectic day at work. It seems that finding a balance between downtime and exercise time is proving very tricky for many people and indeed it may be this association and connection which is directly related to instances of for example diabetes.

Is exercise the key?

As we already know, exercise is the key to every health issue we may have now and in the future but the reality is there are different factors to take into consideration. Some people are more susceptible to type I diabetes or type II diabetes because of their origin, diet, obesity, etc but there is no doubt that reducing the amount of “sit down time” should assist with your chances of remaining healthy for longer.

There are many different studies into diabetes and health issues, exercise issues, etc and while many of them give relatively unexpected results such as this “sit down study” they are really all on the same track. The fact is that we all need to address our diets, address our exercise regime and make sure that we put enough time aside on a regular basis for physical exercise. This may be a short sharp brisk walk to the shops, this may be an extended walk with the dog or perhaps you live close enough to your office to walk there on a regular basis?

Unexpected developments

The only danger with studies such as that concluded by the Diabetes Research Group at the University of Leicester is that because it is “so far out” it will be discounted by some people. It may seem a little obscure to try and link various health conditions, and more predominantly diabetes, with the amount of time you “sit down” but the reality is that there is on the surface at least a specific link. If this study makes at least one person think again about their exercise regime, their downtime and even their diet then surely this makes it all worthwhile?

If you take a step back and look at the overall situation with regards to diabetes studies, we have seen many attempts to influence exercise regimes and diet regimes with more traditional arguments which have fallen by the wayside. So, maybe something as obscure as this “sit down” survey can grab the attention of more people and make them think again about their lives?


Whether or not the so-called direct link between “sit down time” and the development of medical conditions such as diabetes is as strong as it would appear to be on the surface remains to be seen. However, what is particularly alarming from this study is the fact that the average adult spends between 50% and 70% of their time sitting down!

This comes at a time when diabetes, and specifically diabetes type II, is more prevalent than ever before with millions of people around the world now at risk. This is an avoidable condition by simply tweaking a few minor factors in your life such as your exercise regime and your diet regime. Act now before it’s too late!

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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