Editors' ChoiceMetabolism

Taking a stand for metabolic health

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Science Translational Medicine  22 Aug 2018:
Vol. 10, Issue 455, eaau8875
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aau8875

Abstract

Interrupting sitting with short bouts of walking improves glucose metabolism in overweight and obese children.

Currently almost one third of children and teenagers in the United States are overweight or obese, which is defined as having a body mass index at or above the 85th percentile. Sedentary behavior, or time spent sitting, is linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes (T2D). Alarmingly, children spend over six hours a day (not counting sleep) in sedentary behaviors, which may be a major factor contributing to the rising rates of T2D among young people. Findings in a new study by Broadney and colleagues show that breaking up prolonged periods of sitting with short bouts of walking may help to reduce metabolic risk factors associated with T2D in overweight and obese children.

The investigators completed studies in 35 overweight/obese, nondiabetic children between the ages of 7 to 11 years old. Children participated in two study visits in a randomized, crossover design. At each visit, the children consumed a standardized glucose drink and blood samples were collected every 30 min for 3 hours to measure insulin and glucose concentrations, which allowed the investigators to calculate an estimate of insulin sensitivity. During one study visit, the children sat continuously for the entire three hours. In the other visit, children engaged in three-minute bouts of walking at a moderate intensity level every 30 min for the duration of the three hours. At the end of each visit, the children were fed a buffet-style meal, and the amount of food eaten by each child was recorded by the investigators. Compared with the continuous sitting condition, interrupting sitting with periodic three-minute walking intervals led to significant improvements in insulin sensitivity and reduced serum insulin concentrations. The children ate similar amounts of food during the buffet-style meal in both study visits.

These findings suggest that breaking up sitting with short bouts of walking improves glucose metabolism without affecting food intake in overweight and obese children. Larger studies for longer periods are needed to evaluate whether this type of intervention can result in sustained improvements. If so, this could offer a feasible strategy for reducing the metabolic parameters associated with T2D risk in overweight/obese children.

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