Women at risk of developing type 2 diabetes may have access to a simple solution for making health improvements. A study published in early 2016 out of the University of Leicester in Leicester, England, says that regularly breaking up sedentary activity with 5-minute bouts of movement or standing has been linked with lower blood sugar and insulin levels.

Published in Diabetes Care (2016; 39 [1], 130–38), the small study included 22 overweight or obese postmenopausal women around 66 years of age who were at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. On the first day, participants were randomly placed in one of three treatment conditions: 1. prolonged, unbroken sitting (7.5 hours); 2. prolonged sitting broken up with standing for 5 minutes every 30 minutes; or 3. prolonged sitting broken up with walking for 5 minutes every 30 minutes. Regardless of the treatment condition carried out on the first day, all participants underwent the prolonged sitting protocol on the following day. Blood samples were taken before and after each of the interventions.

In analyzing the data, the authors discovered that “compared with uninterrupted sitting, standing reduced the postprandial rise in glucose by 34% (compared with a 28% reduction for walking) and the postprandial rise in insulin concentrations by 20% (37% for walking) on the day of the intervention.”

What’s even more exciting is that the effects on glucose levels persisted into the following day for both intervention groups, and the walking group continued to show improvement in insulin concentrations as well. The researchers believe these data can be helpful in motivating sedentary, at-risk individuals to move more and improve health scores.

“Habitual standing and light-intensity physical activity are behaviorally more ubiquitous than MVPA [moderate-to-vigorous physical activity] and may therefore provide appealing interventional targets in the promotion of metabolic health,” the researchers concluded.