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Inactivity can trigger diabetes

Inactivity, even if it is just for two weeks, can have a dramatic impact on your health.

Not only did an abrupt, brief period of inactivity hasten the onset of Type 2 diabetes and elevate blood sugar levels among pre-diabetic patients, but scientists reported that some study participants did not fully recover when they returned to normal activity for two weeks.

“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,” says Chris McGlory, lead author of the Canadian study which was published in The Journals of Gerontology.

Participants in the study were asked to reduce their daily steps to no more than 1000 steps per day, the equivalent of being housebound due to, for example, illness. Their steps and activity were measured using pedometers and specialised activity monitors, while McGlory and his colleagues tested their blood sugar levels and took blood samples during the two-week period.

“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,” McGlory says.

It was found that within days of the onset of inactivity, there were notable reductions in skeletal muscle mass, strength and a rapid onset of insulin resistance, a common feature of type 2 diabetes.

“In order for pre-diabetic older adults to recover metabolic health and prevent further declines from periods of inactivity, strategies such as active rehabilitation, dietary changes and perhaps medication might be useful,” says McGlory.

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