Sitting, Watching TV Increases Diabetes Risk In Predisposed Individuals Interview with:
Bonny Rockette-Wagner, Ph.D.

Director of physical activity assessment,
University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and
Andrea Kriska, Ph.D.
Professor of epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh
Graduate School of Public Health

Researchers’ Note:

Drs. Kriska and Rockette-Wagner: It should be noted that this study looked at adults at high risk for diabetes. Not everyone in the general population would be at high risk. We would hypothesis that the risk increase from TV watching may be lower in those not at high risk for diabetes, but obviously could not test that in our study population.

MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study?

Response: In this research effort focused on participants in the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) study (published in 2002 and funded by the National Institute of Digestive and Diabetes and Kidney Diseases [NIDDK] section of the US National Institutes of Health [NIH]). That study enrolled 3,234 overweight US adults (1996–1999) of at least 25 years of age with the goal of delaying or preventing type 2 diabetes in high risk individuals with either a metformin drug or lifestyle intervention. The DPP demonstrated that the lifestyle intervention was successful at reducing the incidence of diabetes and achieving its goals of 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity activity (such as brisk walking) and a 7% weight loss (New England Journal of Medicine, 2002). There was no goal to reduce sitting in the Diabetes Prevention Program.

Results from other studies suggest that it is unclear if interventions focusing on increasing physical activity also reduce time spent sitting. This current investigation examined whether the Diabetes Prevention Program lifestyle intervention, which was shown to be effective at increasing physical activity, also decreased self-reported sitting time. The effect of sedentary behavior on diabetes development was also examined.

MedicalResearch: What are the main findings?

Response: For the lifestyle participants, a reduction in reported TV watching alone and the combination of TV watching and work sitting was observed. This reduction was significantly greater than any changes seen in the other two randomized groups, who did not receive the intervention. Because these reductions were accomplished without an explicit program goal to reduce sitting we feel optimistic that with better awareness of sitting behaviors and goal setting to reduce sitting it may be possible to have an even greater impact than what was achieved in this cohort.

Additionally, our results showed that for every hour spent watching TV there was a 3.4% increased risk of developing diabetes during the 3 year follow-up period in individuals at high risk for diabetes. This finding means that reductions in sitting can translate into a positive health effect separate from improvements in moderate-vigorous activity.

MedicalResearch: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: We have always known that increasing physical activity is beneficial. This new effort suggests that individuals also need to be aware of how much time they spend sitting, as demonstrated in this group of individuals at high risk for diabetes.

MedicalResearch: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: We feel it is important to investigate what happens when sedentary goals are added to interventions that already focus on increasing physical activity and reducing weight. Additionally, it will be beneficial to measure activity and sedentary behavior in these interventions both with subjective questionnaires that can provide information on specific behaviors, such as TV watching, and objective electronic activity monitors that can provide a better assessment of total activity and sedentary behavior.

As a next step in the effort to determine the impact of decreasing sedentary behavior, we (Dr. Kriska and her colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh) have just received a $3 million grant from NIH to test the efficacy of a community-based lifestyle intervention program in sedentary, overweight adults that focuses on sitting less. The study involves modifying our existing, highly successful translation of the DPP, the Group Lifestyle Balance Program by reducing the amount of time spent sitting rather than starting with an emphasis on increasing the amount of time they spend exercising.


The impact of lifestyle intervention on sedentary time in individuals at high risk of diabetes Interview with:Bonny Rockette-Wagner, Ph.D., Director of physical activity assessment, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and Andrea Kriska, Ph.D (2015). Sitting, Watching TV Increases Diabetes In High Risk Individuals 

Last Updated on April 2, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD

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