Researchers from McMaster University in Canada recently conducted a small study, published in the Journals of Gerontology, to determine how inactivity can impair insulin sensitivity.
To do so, they examined 22 overweight, prediabetic adults aged 60 and older. They were asked to reduce their daily steps to no more than 1,000 steps per day, which is the equivalent of being housebound. The subjects’ steps were measured with pedometers and specialized activity monitors, and analysts tested their blood sugar levels and took blood samples during their two-week period of inactivity.
After analyzing the results, they found dormancy can hasten the onset of the disease and elevate blood sugar levels among those at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
They discovered participants’ skeletal muscle mass and strength decreased within days, and some even experienced insulin resistance, which is a common feature of Type 2 diabetes.
They also noted some adults did not fully recover after returning to normal activity.
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"We expected to find that the study participants would become diabetic, but we were surprised to see that they didn't revert back to their healthier state when they returned to normal activity," lead author Chris McGlory said in a statement.
They said their results indicate that seniors who experience periods of inactivity from illness, hospitalization or bed rest, for example, are more likely to have “harmful consequences to their overall health.”
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"Treatment of Type 2 diabetes is expensive and often complicated," coauthor Stuart Phillips, added. "If people are going to be off their feet for an extended period they need to work actively to recover their ability to handle blood sugar."