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Can breaks from sitting help people with type 1 to manage their blood sugars?

Project summary

Short, regular walks to break up sitting time can be good for our health. Dr Campbell wants to study if this can help people with type 1 diabetes manage their condition. He’ll compare what happens to people with type 1 diabetes’ blood sugar levels and other measures that are linked to risk of diabetes complications when then stay sitting for a prolonged time and when they take breaks from sitting with short walks. This could give people with type 1 a practical, simple way to help manage their diabetes and stay healthy.

Background to research

Sitting for long periods of time can be harmful to our health. That’s why it’s important to try to move more and break up sitting time.

Research has shown that taking short, frequent walks to break up sitting for long periods can help people with type 2 diabetes to lower their blood sugar levels. That’s because being active can increase the amount of glucose (sugar) used by your muscles and can help your body to use insulin more effectively.

Dr Campbell has previously found that the benefits of reducing time spent sitting on blood sugar levels are seen throughout the whole day, including at mealtimes and during the night, and that this can lower peoples’ risk of developing diabetes complications.

But researchers haven’t investigated yet if the same benefits are seen in people with type 1 diabetes, or checked if there could be any risks, like having more hypos.

Research aims

This study will assess the impact of breaking-up long periods of sitting with short frequent bouts of gentle walking on blood sugar levels and risk factors linked with diabetes complications in people with type 1 diabetes.

Dr Campbell will recruit 32 people with type 1 diabetes. They’ll be asked to visit his lab and remain seated for around seven hours. One week later, they’ll visit again but this time break up their siting with frequent 3-minute bouts of walking.

At both visits the researchers will take hourly blood samples and will measure biological makers that have been linked with future diabetes complications. The participants will also wear continuous glucose monitors for 2 days before and 2 days after their lab visits, so that the researchers can track their blood sugar levels. Participants will be asked to keep their diet the same over each study period.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

Being physically active when you have type 1 diabetes is important to stay healthy for longer, but it can be difficult to build into your daily life. This project will help us to understand whether making a simple practical change in lifestyle, by breaking-up sitting time with short, regular walks, can offer people with type 1 diabetes a way to improve their blood sugar levels and reduce their risk of future complications.

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