Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
November 24, 2021
2 min read

Standing, walking yield metabolic benefits similar to exercise for postmenopausal women

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
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Postmenopausal women participating in 4 hours of standing plus 3 hours of walking per day had improved insulin sensitivity similar to those who engaged in 1 hour of moderate to vigorous exercise, according to study findings.

In a randomized crossover intervention study of postmenopausal women who participated in three daily activity regimens, both a sitting less regimen in which participants engaged in standing and walking and a moderate to vigorous exercise regimen both improved insulin sensitivity when compared with a regimen of sitting for 14 hours a day.

Schrauwen is a professor of metabolic aspects of type 2 diabetes in the NUTRIM School of Nutrition and Translational Research at Maastricht University in the Netherlands.

“Not everyone, including patients with diabetes, are able to perform exercise on a routine basis,” Patrick Schrauwen, PhD, professor of metabolic aspects of type 2 diabetes in the NUTRIM School of Nutrition and Translational Research at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, told Healio. “The implication of our study is that if you are not able to exercise, there are other alternatives that can also have beneficial health effects, such as the lighter activities that you may be able to incorporate in daily life.”

Schrauwen and colleagues recruited 12 postmenopausal women aged 45 to 70 years with a BMI of 25 kg/m2 to 35 kg/m2, a physically inactive lifestyle and stable body weight for at least 6 months to participate in a three-arm randomized crossover intervention study from December 2017 to March 2020. Participants took part in a sitting regimen, sitting less regimen and exercise regimen for 4 weeks each. The sitting regimen included 14 hours of sitting per day, 1 hour of standing and 1 hour of walking. The exercise regimen replaced 1 hour of sitting with 1 hour of moderate to vigorous supervised exercise. The sitting less regimen replaced 5 hours of sitting with 3 additional hours of standing and 2 more hours of walking. There was washout period of between 9 and 23 days between each intervention. Insulin sensitivity was measured by a two-step hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp at the end of each intervention arm. Prior to the clamp, metabolomics was performed on muscle biopsies to identify molecular level changes.

There were no significant differences in glucose levels between the three regimens. Compared with the sitting regimen, participants had a 13% improvement in peripheral insulin sensitivity in the sitting less regimen and a 20% improvement in the exercise regimen.

Of the three regimens, exercise provided the greatest molecular metabolic changes. There was a significant positive correlation in metabolic changes observed between the exercise and sitting less regimens (r = 0.393). Though less pronounced than in the exercise regimen, sitting less induced similar metabolic changes at the end of the intervention.

“The findings confirm previous results, but here we went a step further and also looked into the underlying mechanisms, with the questions if the mechanisms were similar between sitting less and exercise,” Schrauwen said. “Although this is not 100% the case, there was a good level of overlap between the two interventions.”

Schrauwen said the findings need to be confirmed in a longer-term study to examine whether a longer regimen leads to further benefits in glucose homeostasis.

For more information:

Patrick Schrauwen, PhD, can be reached at p.schrauwen@maastrichtuniversity.nl.