Just 3 Days of Lazing Around Will Weaken Your Ability to Regulate Blood Sugar

By Sarah Zhang | March 2, 2012 2:02 pm


We all know that slouching in chairs and sitting in cars all day is no good for our bodies. But can even a little laziness—a few days off from the gym, a weekend of lounging—cause problems? It appears so: A new study suggests healthy people will develop higher blood sugar after only three days of a sedentary lifestyle.

Most studies that just compare sedentary people with active ones don’t tell us much about whether sedentary living actually causes the problems—diabetes, high blood pressure, and so on—associated with it. The inactive people with health problems might have genetic or other reasons for them, and it could be that their illnesses are causing their lack of exercise, rather than the other way around. But this study is pretty clever: it compares people against themselves before and after forced laziness, so differences can be pinned to reduced activity.

Researchers asked 12 active, healthy participants to reduce the number of steps they took from over 10,000 per day to less than 5,000 and looked to see whether the change caused a difference in blood glucose levels. Blood glucose rises naturally whenever we eat, and the hormone insulin helps convert glucose to another molecule to be stored in the liver and muscles. Extreme blood glucose spikes after eating, though, are a hallmark of diabetes, which is caused by problems in insulin. To continuously track their glucose levels and activity, the subjects were fitted with small glucose monitors under their skin as well as  pedometers. After three days of forced laziness, their bodies became less sensitive to insulin and had higher blood glucose spikes after eating. It’s not clear if the subjects would have developed diabetes in the long term, but the connection is suggestive.

The good news is that other studies have shown exercise can help manage high blood sugar, so it goes both ways. But the fact that it took just three days for a change in glucose metabolism to crop up is striking. Anyone feel like taking a walk right now?

[via New York Times Well blog]

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • Wesley

    I need to get back to the gym!

  • Brendon Herrick

    This study is based off of ONLY 12 people? LMAO

  • blindboy

    So 12 is now a representative sample of the entire human population from which results can be generalised to all humanity? I don’t think so. How about a headline like ” Research indicates the possibility that three days of lazing around etc….”

    We expect this hyperbolic nonsense in newspaper headlines. You should do better.

  • John Lerch

    How many of these people were carb addicts though? It seems to me that one down side of exercising is the tendency to eat too much carbohydrate. So if they continued to eat the way they had been allowing themselves to, then yeah their sugar would rise.

  • Kerry Weyrick

    It would be interesting to see a study that accounts for any differences in eating habits during inactivity, and has a larger study group. I have noticed in myself, that I eat better and feel better when I’m more active. This improvement seems to increase as I get more physically fit.

  • http://Ruggedatrength.com Gabriel

    Wow, I knew in as little as 3 days of non activity our muscles atrophied, but had no idea the other implications of this.

  • Clement

    look at all the expert scientists here. I guess they could have secured grant money for a study of 4.2 billion people?

    Every experiment starts with a small number of subjects. The conclusions drawns here aren’t grandiose at all. It was completely unclear before the experiment if such a short time would have any effect at all. This showed that it can clearly happen. To get a better and more significant idea of the variance among different types of individuals, they’d need a bigger, better funded study. Standard practice.

    So yeah, DiscoverMag could have changed the headline to something mealy-mouthed containing 100 words with “possibly” and “maybe” strewn about, or they could state what the experiment showed, like they did, and let people READ THE ARTICLE to get the details.

    After all, they know that their readership is smarter than the scientists anyway, and will easily pick out any flaws in the study. So why worry?

  • blindboy

    There are a large number of asumptions in your argument but I am happy to acknowledge that it is probably just a matter of taste. If I read a headline making a bald statement of fact I prefer that the article provides sufficient evidence to back it up. You apparently care less about that.
    My concern with your approach is that, at any given moment, there any number of ill informed, scientifically illiterate journalists trawling the internet for some factoid from which they can extract a tabloid headline. I am not naiive enough to believe that much can be done to prevent this but at least they should be put to the trouble of writing their own headlines!

  • Anna Kildin

    Having had Type 1 diabetes for 31 years I am a little astounded that a study has had to be taken to suggest that blood sugar will rise if there is a fall in activity, whether with non-diabetics or people suffering with the condition. I am also increasingly frustrated that Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3 are rolled into one…… What the 12 person ‘report’ suggests is that if these people are lazy they will get diabetes, no they won’t they will get Type 2 or 3 due to the body not being able to produce enough insulin to combat the food eaten or lack of exercise taken and no doubt due to being overweight! Type 1 is not through lack of exercise or being unhealthy, it is simply an organ that stops working, for which we still don’t know why. Do not roll the 3 conditions into one, they are all very different!!

  • A (Pre) Medical Student

    Read the link to the ACTUAL article people! A sample of over 17,000 people were used! Don’t fall into the trap of overemphasizing the layman’s media for health and medicine; and, don’t expect that such awesome periodicals like Discover aren’t doing their job!

  • blindboy

    Click “new study” read abstract, n=12.

  • pctek

    Funny, I’ve been lazing around for 7 years and my sugar levels are under 6mmol.
    Another example of bad science


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