Inactivity Can Hasten Onset of Diabetes

We know that a sedentary lifestyle can be as dangerous to our health as other risk factors like smoking, a poor diet or drinking too much alcohol, and new research finds that just 2 weeks of inactivity can speed the onset of diabetes in pre-diabetic adults over the age 60.

A study out of the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, published in The Journals of Gerontology, followed 22 overweight adults at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.  Participants were asked to reduce the number of steps taken each day to no more than 1,000, measured with an activity monitor, for two weeks.  Blood sugar levels were tested and recorded over the two week period and were found to be significantly elevated by the end of the study.   

Muscle mass and strength of study participants decreased within days of inactivity and some experienced insulin resistance, a factor leading to type 2 diabetes.  Some of the adults who participated in the study found they did not fully recover even after returning to normal activity.  The 1,000 step limitation was set to approximate the activity level of a homebound older adult. 

The study highlights the importance of returning to activity as soon as possible after a period of inactivity during an illness, following an injury or while hospitalized.  It is recommended that older adults aged 50 to 70 take between 6,000 and 8,500 steps each day.  The average person walks about 500 steps in 5 minutes, so adding just 30 minutes of walking daily can quickly help older adults achieve a goal of 10,000 steps each day.  If you are lucky enough to live in a walkable neighborhood, by running errands on foot, steps are easier to log and on average, people in walkable cities weigh 6 to 10 pounds less than residents of sprawling suburban neighborhoods.

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects how your body metabolizes sugar;  it can be managed with a healthy diet, exercise and maintaining a healthy weight but sometimes medication or insulin therapy may be needed to help control blood sugar.  Long term complications of type 2 diabetes include damage to eyesight and kidney function, nerve pain and an increased risk for heart disease and stroke. 

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes

  • Increased thirst and frequent urination.
  • Increased hunger.
  • Weight loss.
  • Fatigue.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Slow-healing sores or frequent infections.
  • Areas of darkened skin – usually in the armpits and neck.

See a doctor if you notice any of these symptoms.

Source:  Mayo Clinic