Breaks from sitting with short bouts of activity can also reduce the risk of complications associated with the condition such as heart attack and stroke, scientists from the University of Sunderland said.
The findings – which are yet to be peer-reviewed – were presented at the Diabetes UK Professional Conference 2023 and involved 32 participants who were assessed over a two-week period.
‘First pieces of evidence’
Dr Matthew Campbell, principal investigator in cardiovascular and metabolic medicine at the University of Sunderland, said: “These results provide the first piece of evidence that simply breaking up prolonged periods of time sitting with light-intensity activity can increase the amount of time spent with blood-sugar levels in the target range.
“Importantly, this strategy does not seem to increase the risk of potentially dangerous blood glucose lows which are a common occurrence with more traditional types of physical activity and exercise.”
Nearly 400,000 people in the UK are living with type 1 diabetes.
The condition occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, leading to high blood-sugar levels.
For the study, the participants completed two seven-hour sitting sessions – in one they remained seated for the full seven hours, while during the other, sitting time was broken up with three-minute bouts of light-intensity walking every 30 minutes.
Blood-sugar levels were monitored during each session.
Set breakfast and lunch
The participants were given a set breakfast and lunch, and asked to stick to the same diet, activity levels and insulin doses over the study period.
Results showed taking regular walking breaks resulted in lower average blood-sugar levels (6.9mmol/L) over 48 hours, compared with uninterrupted sitting (8.2mmol/L).
This increased time with blood-sugar levels in the target range by 14 percentage points, the researchers said, and did not cause blood sugars to become dangerously low.
Dr Elizabeth Robertson, director of research at Diabetes UK, which funded the study, said: “Breaking up sitting time with short bursts of activity offers a cost-free way to help people with type 1 diabetes manage their blood-sugar levels and potentially reduce their risk of future complications.
“We look forward to further research to understand the long-term benefits of this approach.”