Why Breaking Up Sitting Time Can Save Your Life and How to Do It When You Have Prediabetes

The new phrase, “sitting is the new smoking,” emphasizes the importance of breaking up sitting time. Here is what it can do for you!
Why Breaking Up Sitting Time Can Save Your Life and How to Do It When You Have Prediabetes
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health

The Diabetes Prevention Program focuses lifestyle changes to lower risk for type 2 diabetes among high-risk people. Weight loss of about 5% of body weight and achieving at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity are the primary goals of the program since research has shown that hitting these goals can lower diabetes risk by over 50%. 

However, weight loss and exercise are not the only steps you can take to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. Healthy food choices, stress management, and adequate sleep all help. So, too, can breaking up sedentary, or sitting, time. In fact, the new phrase, “sitting is the new smoking,” emphasizes the importance of breaking up sitting time, and Lark DPP dedicates an entire mission to it. Here is what it can do for you and how to do it.

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Need a Weight Loss Boost?

Compared to sitting, standing burns about 20% more calories. Stretching burns over twice as many calories as sitting, and light calisthenics, such as squats and lunges, can burn over three times the amount as sitting does. You could burn an extra 50 or more calories each day if you could replace a half-hour of sitting with a half-hour of stretching or calisthenics. That adds up to 250 calories per week for a 5-day work week, or over 12,000 calories per year. 

That amount of calories equates to loss of almost 4 lb. How does that sound?

The Ultimate Goal: Health

Those weight loss calculations may be encouraging, but they are simply estimates. You might also note that you could simply bicycle for a half-hour a week to hit those calorie burn estimates. If you need more motivation to break up your sitting time, the health benefits should be convincing. Breaking up sitting time can:

  • Increase insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar and risk for type 2 diabetes.
  • Lower risk for heart disease and deep-vein thrombosis.
  • Lower risk for high blood pressure.
  • Lower risk for high triglycerides.

Ready to stop sitting?

I Forgot to Stand!

That is okay! Everyone forgets things sometimes. Now that you know that you might get so engrossed in your work, book, or movie that you could forget to stand up periodically, it may be time to look for ways to get reminders.

Keeping your phone on you, and enabling notifications from Lark, can be a good start. When Lark senses that you have been still for a while, you might get a little note reminding you to move a bit. Another way to remember is to set your phone timer to ring every 30 minutes. If you prefer not to go by the clock, you could go by other cues, such as moving during commercial breaks, between chapters, when you switch from posting on social media to reading others’ feeds, or after knitting a few rows.

A little creativity can help, too. For example, taping a note on the remote control can help you remember to move during commercials if you tend to reach for the remote and flip through the channels when commercials interrupt your show. Or, you could tape a note on the inside door handle of your car so you remember to walk a bit instead of going directly from the car to the inside of the building you have arrived at.

But I Already Work Out Most Days!

Are you in good shape? Do you make sure to get in a good workout most days a week? Do you even come close to hitting that 150-minute-per-week DPP goal most weeks? That is great – keep it up! 

If optimal health is your goal, though, that workout may not be enough if the rest of your day involves a lot of sitting. Dedicated exercise has tons of benefits, but sedentary time – prolonged sitting – has risks no matter how fit you are, and breaking up sedentary time has benefits.

Can I Quit the Gym?

If those 1 to 5-minute periods of standing or moving are so beneficial, is it okay to skip your regular workout routine? 

The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) encourages you to aim to get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise for a reason: it works. People in the DPP who hit this goal have a dramatically lower risk of developing prediabetes. While efforts to break up sitting time can total over 150 minutes per week, light activities such as standing, stretching, and pacing the office do not count as moderate to vigorous activities such as the following.

  • Brisk walking.
  • Uphill walking or hiking.
  • Biking.
  • Jogging.
  • Elliptical trainer.
  • Dancing or aerobics.
  • Swimming or water aerobics.

These higher-intensity activities get your heart rate up, maintain or improve fitness, and have different benefits from the lower-intensity choices that may break up sitting time.

I Do Not Have Time

Loss of productive time can certainly be a concern, but the time you lose from breaking up sedentary time can quickly be made up because of increased efficiency while you are working due to clearer thinking. Those scarce minutes spent standing or moving may be valuable not only for your health, but for your job.

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If you really, truly do not have time to stop what you are doing for a few minutes every so often, then do not! Instead, there are ways to get moving while working.

  • Standing desk.
  • Treadmill desk.
  • Pedal machine for under the desk.
  • Leaning seat, buoy chair, or balance ball chair to engage the core muscles while sitting.

While sitting may be the new smoking, there is plenty of good news. Quitting may be easier, since no addictive chemicals are involved, and there are no withdrawal symptoms. Instead, insulin resistance decreases and cardiovascular health improves immediately, and there is no fear of weight gain as there is with smoking. Give it a try, and let Lark remind and encourage you to stand up and move throughout the day.