Medical predictions do not get any more precise than this: Each hour you watch TV daily increases your risk of developing diabetes by 3.4 percent, say the authors of a new study published in Diabetologia.

“Sitting is the new smoking,” a fashionably dressed person said to the (seated) host of a talk show filmed before a studio filled with (seated) guests assembled for the benefit of a (seated) home audience. Doesn't get more ironic than this. Still, how do we become more physically active when it’s so very appealing to stay safely tucked inside our comfy homes with our electronic toys and TVs?

While that’s a question no one can answer for you, Medical Daily would like to make one small suggestion. Just like eating your vegetables — another piece of advice we hear much too often — exercise is so much more tempting if you’ve explored a bit and experimented some and discovered a few things you actually like. Dancing, walking, biking, going to the gym, roller skating, bowling, playing pool, playing basketball, swimming, cleaning your bathroom, or even cruising a shopping mall — all of these count as exercise. For that matter, playing with your cat, taking photographs, re-changing your outfit countless times, painting a picture, restyling a friend's hair, or rearranging the furniture may not be high action pursuits, but at least you’re on your feet.

And so we return to the study at hand. To learn more about the impact of sedentary behavior, a group of researchers, who hail from American and Swedish universities, accessed data collected during the Diabetes Prevention Program. Between the years 1996 and 1999, the Diabetes Prevention Program enrolled 3,234 overweight American adults, 25 years or older, in order to see which of three subgroups could do a better job of delaying or preventing type 2 diabetes: a metformin drug group, a placebo group, or a lifestyle intervention group. Of these groups, participants in the lifestyle intervention — which required participants lose seven percent of their weight and perform 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week (brisk walking, for example) — successfully reduced the incidence of diabetes.

While the result of the program was clear, what the current researchers did not know is whether the lifestyle intervention had any impact on the total time participants spent sitting.

Revisiting the Program

So, for the current study, the research team examined whether the lifestyle intervention decreased self-reported sitting time. The team also investigated whether sedentary behavior had an impact on diabetes development. To accomplish both of these goals, the team sifted through and reanalyzed the data.

What they discovered was, prior to the intervention, the three groups all spent about the same amount of time watching TV while also logging in the same amount of sedentary time at work. And, during the follow-up phase, the lifestyle participants showed the greatest reduction in total sedentary time. However, after crunching the numbers, the researchers found the risk of developing diabetes for all the participants, no matter their group, increased approximately 3.4 percent for each hour spent watching TV.

“It is likely that a lifestyle intervention program that incorporates a specific goal of decreasing sitting time would result in greater changes in sitting and likely more health improvements than are demonstrated here,” said Dr. Andrea M. Kriska of University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. In other words, the trifecta of losing weight, increasing activity, and decreasing sitting is bound to be a winner when it comes to battling diabetes.

Source: Rockette-Wagner B, Edelstein S, Venditti EM, et al. The impact of lifestyle intervention on sedentary time in individuals at high risk of diabetes. Diabetologia. 2015.