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Fitness Moderates Glycemic Responses to Sitting and Light Activity Breaks


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: November 2017 - Volume 49 - Issue 11 - p 2216–2222
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001338
Applied Sciences

Purpose This study aimed to experimentally determine whether cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) modifies postprandial glycemia during prolonged sitting and investigated the potentially blunting influence this may have on the benefits of interrupting postprandial sitting time with light activity breaks.

Methods Thirty-four adults (18 women; 16 men; mean ± SD age, 40 ± 9 yr, body mass index, 24.5 ± 3 kg·m−2) undertook two 7.5-h experimental conditions in a randomized order: 1) Prolonged sitting; 2) Sitting interspersed with 5 min light walking bouts every 30 min. Blood samples were obtained while fasting and postprandially after ingestion of two identical meals. Incremental area under the curve (iAUC) was calculated for glucose and insulin throughout experimental conditions. Maximal exercise testing quantified peak oxygen consumption (V˙O2 peak) as a measure of CRF. A repeated-measures ANOVA investigated whether V˙O2 peak modified glucose and insulin iAUC between conditions.

Results Breaking sedentary time with light walking breaks reduced blood glucose iAUC from 3.89 ± 0.7 to 2.51 ± 0.7 mmol·L−1·h−1 (P = 0.015) and insulin iAUC from 241 ± 46 to 156 ± 24 mU·L−1·h−1 (P = 0.013) after adjustment for V˙O2 peak and sex. A significant interaction between treatment response and V˙O2 peak was observed for glucose (P = 0.035), but not insulin (P = 0.062), whereby the treatment effect reduced with higher CRF. Average blood glucose iAUC responses for a man at the 25th centile of CRF within our cohort (42.5 mL·kg−1·min−1) went from 5.80 to 2.98 mmol·L−1·h−1 during the prolonged sitting and light walking break conditions respectively, whereas average responses for a man at the 75th centile of CRF (60.5 mL·kg−1·min−1) went from 1.99 to 1.78 mmol·L−1·h−1. Similar trends were observed for women.

Conclusions Individuals with low CRF gained the most metabolic benefit from breaking prolonged sitting with regular bouts of light walking.

Supplemental digital content is available in the text.

1Diabetes Research Centre, University of Leicester, Leicester Diabetes Centre, Leicester General Hospital, Leicester, Leicestershire, UNITED KINGDOM; 2National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), Leicester Diabetes Centre, UNITED KINGDOM; 3Health Sciences, University of Leicester, Leicester, UNITED KINGDOM; 4National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care-East Midlands (CLAHRC-EM) Leicester Diabetes Centre, Leicester, UNITED KINGDOM; 5Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA; and 6Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA

Address for correspondence: Charlotte Edwardson, Ph.D., Diabetes Research Centre, University of Leicester, Leicester General Hospital, Leicester, Leicestershire LE5 4PW, United Kingdom; E-mail:

Submitted for publication October 2016.

Accepted for publication May 2017.

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© 2017 American College of Sports Medicine