DiabeticLifestyle is now OnTrackDiabetes.com! Learn more.

Sedentary lifestyles are largely to blame for type 2 diabetes risk

Most people think that if they get regular exercise they will be in good physical condition and reduce their chances of developing type 2 diabetes or other chronic health conditions. However, there may be more to it than this.

Getting regular exercise is not necessarily the same thing as living an active lifestyle. A person can routinely stop at the gym for a half hour each day after work, but if their job requires sitting at a desk for eight hours each day and their post-workout habits involve sitting in front of the TV until it's time to go to bed, that person may still be characterized as having a sedentary lifestyle. Thirty minutes at the gym does not make up for 15 hours of sitting.

Sedentary lifestyles are precisely what contribute the most to a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A team of researchers from the University of Missouri recently set out to determine the effect of an inactive routine on a person's chances of developing chronic diseases, and found that there is a strong association.

The group analyzed results from recently published investigations that measured participants' average daily steps. These studies also included information about the individuals' health.

Results showed that those who took less than 5,000 steps per day were significantly more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease or other chronic conditions than those who averaged more than 10,000 daily steps. The most important part of these findings was that they held true regardless of whether a person worked out at the gym on a regular basis.

That means you can run several miles each night and lift weights until you are blue in the face, but if you are not moving regularly throughout your day, you may still be at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

"If people spend the majority of their time sitting, even with regular periods of exercise, they are still at greater risk for chronic diseases," said Professor John Thyfault, one of the researchers who participated in the study. "If people can add some regular movement into their routines throughout the day, they will feel better and be less susceptible to health problems."

There are many things a person can do to increase the number of steps they take each day. Instead of calling or emailing your colleague, try walking down to their office. Rather than sitting at your desk to eat lunch, you can walk around outside during your break.

Changing a lifestyle to become more active can take a significant amount of effort and thought, but it doesn't have to be a huge challenge. Small changes throughout the day can add up to make a big difference. It simply takes some planning and determination.

Type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases now account for 75 percent of healthcare spending in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sedentary lifestyles are largely to blame for this trend. However, making conscious efforts to move throughout the day can help a person reduce their own risk.