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Impact of TV, Sitting on Type 2 Diabetes Risk

impact of TV, sitting on type 2 diabetes risk

People who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes may reduce their chances by getting up and walking away from the TV. The team at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, which conducted the study, has also been awarded a grant to help implement their findings in a community-based lifestyle intervention project to help reduce type 2 diabetes risk.


Type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle disease, and it’s been shown that modifying factors such as diet, exercise, stress, sleep, smoking, and alcohol use can have an important to significant impact on risk and development. This latest study, under direction of Bonny Rockette-Wagner, PhD, director of physical activity assessment at the University, involved evaluation of data from the clinical research trial called the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), which was completed more than a decade ago.

The DPP results showed that individuals at risk for type 2 diabetes who significantly increased their physical activity levels and who lost weight sharply lowered their chances of being diagnosed with diabetes and heart disease. This group did better than people who were taking the antidiabetes drug metformin to prevent or delay onset of diabetes.

The DPP goals were twofold. It was hoped that individuals would achieve a 7 percent weight loss and participate in 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity per week.

In this new analysis, the investigators used data from a three-year follow-up and controlled for the amount of physical activity the participants reported. They found the following:

  • The risk of developing type 2 diabetes increased by 3.4 percent for each hour individuals spent watching TV daily
  • When the authors added body weight to the equation, the increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes dropped to 2.1 percent
  • The lifestyle intervention not only increased the amount of moderate intensity physical activity but also reduced time spent watching TV and sitting time (average of 37 minutes per day less). Interventions that achieve an increase in physical activity are not always accompanied by a decline in sitting time, according to Dr. Rockette-Wagner.

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The study’s senior author, Andrea Kriska, PhD, remarked that “Because a decrease in sitting occurred despite the absence of program goals aimed at reducing sedentary behavior, it is likely that a lifestyle intervention program that incorporates such a goal would result in greater changes in sitting and greater health improvements than we found in this study.” The upcoming community-based intervention program will address these factors and emphasize sitting less.

Much has been written about the impact of exercise and the risk of type 2 diabetes, including the best time to exercise, the recommended exercises, and the types of games that can help with the disease. The word “exercise” often turns individuals off, especially if they are not used to exercising, they are overweight and find it difficult to exercise, or they lack support and motivation.

However, the findings of this new study suggest that encouraging sedentary, overweight individuals at risk for type 2 diabetes to sit less (and watch less TV) may be helpful in reducing development of the disease. The upcoming efforts, funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health, will hopefully provide insight into this question.

Diabetes Prevention Program
University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

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