Diabetes Q&A

Study: Light Walking Could Significantly Improve Insulin Sensitivity In Diabetes Patients

Periodically breaking up sitting time with walking effectively improves 24-hour glucose levels and insulin sensitivity in individuals with type 2 diabetes better than structured exercise, according to a recent study.

In order to compare the effects of light-intensity walking and standing with structured exercise on outcomes in patients with type 2 diabetes, researchers conducted a randomized crossover study of 19 patients with type 2 diabetes who were not using insulin. The participants each followed 3 regimens lasting 4 days each: Sitting, consisting of 4415 steps per day with 14 hours of sitting per day; Exercise, consisting of 4823 steps per day with 1.1 hours of sitting replaced by moderate to vigorous cycling; and Sit Less, consisting of 17,502 steps per day with 4.7 hours of sitting replaced by standing and light-intensity walking.

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Overall, the incremental AUC (iAUC) for 24-hour glucose was significantly lower during the Sit Less period than in the Sitting period, and was similar between Sit Less and Exercise periods. However, Exercise failed to improve HOMA2-IR compared with the Sitting period, while Sit Less significantly reduced HOMA2-IR compared with Exercise and Sitting.

“Breaking sitting with standing and light-intensity walking effectively improved 24-hour glucose levels and improved insulin sensitivity in individuals with type 2 diabetes to a greater extent than structured exercise,” the researchers concluded. 

“Thus, our results suggest that breaking sitting with standing and light-intensity walking may be an alternative to structured exercise to promote glycaemic control in patients type 2 diabetes.”

—Michael Potts


Duvivier BMFM, Schaper NC, Hesselink MKC, et al. Breaking sitting with light activities vs structured exercise: a randomised crossover study demonstrating benefits for glycaemic control and insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetes [published online December 1, 2016]. Diabetologia. doi:10.1007/s00125-016-4161-7