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How Does Sedentary Lifestyle Affect Diabetes?

While there is a lot spoken about sedentary behaviors and their effect on your health, knowing how does sedentary lifestyle affect diabetes can help you in taking the right action to control it.

How Does Sedentary Lifestyle Affect Diabetes?

Recent studies have found that sitting for long hours can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus. A study was performed to analyze the association between sedentary lifestyle and long-term health and not just focus on the time spent watching television. The study concluded that even if the individuals performed regular exercise, sitting for long periods every day, their risk of developing type 2 diabetes almost doubled.1

If you are wondering how does sedentary lifestyle affect diabetes, here is a possible relation.


One of the main ways in which sedentary lifestyle affects diabetes is that it affects the body’s metabolism. Ideally, when the body is active the muscles are moving. These muscle contractions are related to glucose uptake, which results in improved insulin action. When there is no activity the glucose metabolism is affected. When this continues for more hours during a day and for prolonged periods, eventually it can lead to changes in the metabolism. On the contrary, when you take a quick break, stand or walk, your muscles support the movement of glucose and boost metabolism. Hence, experts believe that frequent muscle contractions may be required to cut down the unhealthy molecular signals that lead to metabolic diseases.

The risk of lifestyle disorders is associated with sitting idle for many hours which can be about 10 hours per day or 70 hours per week.2 This study also found that while body fat and body mass index are important factors affecting diabetes, the duration spent practicing sedentary behavior can greatly add to the risk of developing diabetes. Reports have suggested that sedentary time is a risk factor for cardiometabolic disorders in people who with greater risk of type 2 diabetes. The parameters include fasting insulin, raised 2-hour glucose, IL-6, low HDL, and clustered metabolic risk score.

Overall Health

How does sedentary lifestyle affect diabetes goes beyond just the risk of diabetes but also raises the risk of other associated problems.

Sedentary behaviors in people with type 2 diabetes can further affect their metabolism and can result in bones being deficient in essential nutrients. Sedentary lifestyle affects diabetes in various ways as sedentary behaviors mean low energy consumption in an awake state. This could be sitting, leaning, or lying down, which influences how the body uses or metabolizes the food consumed. If it is not utilized appropriately, it will result in abnormal accumulation of excess fat in various locations of the body. It will also affect the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients reaching the necessary body parts which can result in certain deficiencies or lack of the muscle ability to perform to their optimal levels.

Long-term sedentary behavior can have long-lasting effects that affect the entire body and overall health in addition to diabetes. A recent 2022 study concluded that sedentary lifestyle can independently be responsible for raised trunk, and body fat percentage and affect body composition. It can decrease skeletal muscle mass and bone mineral density  of the lumbar spine, hip, and leg bones in patients with type 2 diabetes.3

This can further raise the risk of bone and muscle disorders, and spine issues and also increase the risk of falls. Thus sedentary lifestyle can affect diabetes in many ways and it is best to be avoided to prevent further complications.


When considering how sedentary lifestyle affects diabetes, it is important to understand that physical activity is also linked to wellness and better immunity. Sedentary behavior can affect people with diabetes by reducing immunity and raising the risk of many other illnesses.

A recent 2020 report confirmed that during the COVID-19 pandemic, people with comorbidities like diabetes were at greater risk of developing severe infections. People with comorbidities have greater body mass index and can have chronic low-grade inflammation, which raises their risk of infections. In such cases, physical inactivity can add to their risk of worsening health and reduce immunity, thus further increasing their risk of having severe infections.4 It is clear that there is a link between sedentary behavior, obesity, aging, and metabolic syndrome with reduced immune and viral defenses. On the other hand, moderate exercise but avoiding overtraining or overexertion are linked with better immune responses and reduced risk of infections.

Physical activity and diet are the essential interventions advised for people with diabetes to ensure proper utilization of glucose. This is keeping in view the need to boost metabolism, improve immunity and maintain weight. But sedentary behavior is just the opposite and hence not advisable.

Now it is clear that sedentary lifestyle can affect diabetes by affecting metabolic pathways, raising the risk of other metabolic disorders like obesity and cardiovascular problems. It can also affect the nutritional status and cause weaker bones and muscles or reduce muscle mass and increased fat mass. Also, it can result in lowered immunity, infections affect healing, and increase the risk of complications associated with diabetes.

What To Do?

Experts believe that physical activity of some kind is necessary every day, which could be in any form best suited to the individual. But additionally, being active throughout the day or particularly avoiding long sitting hours is essential to improve overall health and reduce the risk of diabetes. Long hours of sitting or lying down, which form a major part of sedentary lifestyle can be replaced by standing or walking to reduce the risk of lifestyle disorders. Studies have found that taking a break from sitting work every 20 mins and moving about for two mins can help control glucose levels and insulin response.1

Being physically active is important, and you can do your best by taking breaks from your work or standing to work at your desk for some time. These days, modified ways are being practiced at workplaces to reduce sedentary time and improve health and well-being. Some people consider sitting for deskwork on an exercise ball, walking during lunch breaks, or planning meetings in an active setup.


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 25, 2022

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