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Exercise For Diabetes

Taking Standing Breaks Helps Your Health

Just standing up is the easiest exercise. But we need to schedule it.

Standing up might be one of the smartest things that you do today. So, push that chair away from your desk. Pause that long meal to rise from the table. Pull your butt up from that easy chair.


Sitting for more than half an hour at a stretch is hazardous for your health. It’s particularly bad for anyone who has diabetes or prediabetes.

Taking a 5-Minute Standing Break

If you just stand up for five minutes every half hour that you sit, your blood glucose level will be similar to the results of walking that much. This is the heartening message of a new study involving 22 women with an average age of 67. The women were classified as either overweight or obese, living with prediabetes.

Researchers in the U.K. and Australia just presented the study at the World Diabetes Congress in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. A leading professional journal, Diabetes Care, published the full-text of the study online ahead of print a week ago at “Breaking Up Prolonged Sitting With Standing or Walking Attenuates the Postprandial Metabolic Response in Postmenopausal Women.”

Surprising Results

The lead researcher and corresponding author was Joseph Henson, M.D., of the Diabetes Research Centre, University of Leicester. He says that the results surprised him:

“From previous studies I would have thought that it had to be driven by energy expenditure, so people would actually have to get up out of their chair and do something physical such as walking in order to get the reductions in glucose and insulin. But this probably points toward something happening at the muscle level, when you change your posture from sitting to standing.”

Dr. Henson says that it’s likely that the results of this study apply just as much, if not more so, to people who already have diabetes. Logically, people with prediabetes are just like those of us who have diabetes, except that if they manage their condition now, they won’t have to manage it the rest of their lives.

Building on Earlier Studies

This new study is good news for people who don’t like to work up a sweat. Of course, strenuous exercise can help us stay healthy, but moderate exercise, particularly walking helps too. In fact, the new study isn’t the first to conclude that getting up from our chairs is good for us.

Standing up helps the health of your heart, according to a study five years ago that the American Journal of Epidemiology published. Another study, this one published three years later in Diabetologia, also found that the time people spent sedentary is strongly — and adversely — associated with their heart health. In this study more time spent sedentary also meant higher blood glucose levels. Further, their triglyceride levels were higher and their level of the good cholesterol, HDL, was lower.

I know how easy it is to be so wrapped up in what you are doing that you can lose track of time. For me that’s especially true when I am working on one of my articles. I know from these studies that it helps manage my blood glucose and protect my heart and can feel that it prevents back pain. One of my best tricks is to set the timer to ring after 30 minutes. Getting up to turn it off reminds me to take a standing break.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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  • SueT at

    I leave home at 6am and get home around 2 depending on traffic. The only thing I get out for is to pee 🙂 Oh…and I only put on about 140 miles at that time….mostly city driving. Stick a paper in a box, toodle on down the road a bit, do another. Lather, rinse, repeat!! 😛

  • Terri at

    SueT, how can you drive “6-8 hours at a time” without getting gas? I can only drive maybe 250-300 miles at the most, between gas stops. That’s 4-5 hours of highway driving at the most.

  • SueT at

    So I’m guessing that when I drive for 6-8 hours at a time, the results are the same as sitting behind a desk. I’ll happily take suggestions as how to take a standing break in that circumstance…..

    • David Mendosa at

      I make the same guess, Sue. And I am going to drive just over 1,000 miles in a few days. I will be driving from my home in Colorado to visit my sister at her home in California. So every day I will be driving from 6 to 8 hours. Mostly on Interstate 70 and 15. Fortunately, our highways all have frequent rest stops. I will use them to make a cup of tea or one of coffee every time. I always carry a camp stove with me when I travel so boiling the water goes really fast. Sometimes after the beverage is ready I drink it while driving (the boiling of the water and the brewing of the tea takes enough time standing) and other times I just wait at the rest stop and enjoy my drink and the rest and the relief on my back and butt.

  • Jane at

    I’ve been seeing articles on this topic for a few years but most were related to back injuries. My supervisor purchased a sit/stand attachment for my desk and I began using it the week of January 13. I love it. I also have have had a spinal fusion so sitting too long is not advised. FYI, I’m 61 and work full time so this improvement to my work life is welcomed.