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Australian researchers examine the impact of sitting on pregnancy

Photo: Impact of sitting on pregnancy examined
Australian researchers are conducting a trial to examine the impact prolonged sitting has on a pregnant woman's chances of developing gestational diabetes.

Sitting has been dubbed by many as 'the new smoking' because of the dangers associated with a sedentary lifestyle.

For years public health experts have been campaigning for people to get off their backsides and include more activity in their lives to reduce high rates of obesity and chronic disease.

Now Australian researchers are examining whether interrupting prolonged sitting during pregnancy can improve blood sugar levels in mothers at risk of gestational diabetes.

Research fellow Robyn Larsen at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute says recent evidence suggests regular, brief (two to three minute) bouts of gentle walking can lower post meal blood sugar levels by 24 to 35 per cent when compared to prolonged sitting.
Given that prolonged sitting is associated with elevated blood sugar levels, breaking up sitting among pregnant woman could potentially be an additional intervention to reduce the rate of gestational diabetes, says Ms Larsen.

"We know that pregnant women generally reduce their levels of activity during pregnancy and this isn't helped by the fact that sitting for prolonged periods has been linked to the development of gestational diabetes," Ms Larsen said.

"We've shown in previous studies in people who are risk of type two diabetes and individuals with diabetes that prolonged sitting can acutely raise blood glucose and insulin levels," she told AAP.

The prevalence of gestational diabetes is increasing in Australia. Recent estimates suggest the condition occurs in 16-20 per cent of pregnancies in Australia.

It can lead to pregnancy complications, but of more concern is gestational diabetes being linked to long-term health risks for the mother.

"There's the risk of type 2 diabetes and developing cardiovascular disease," said Ms Larsen.

As part of the GLOW (Glucose Lowering effect Of Walking breaks during pregnancy) study, participants will undergo the routine oral glucose tolerance test at 24-28 weeks.

The test will then be repeated a week later where the women will also be required to go for a light to moderate walk every 20 minutes.

"We're looking at what impact those short bouts of walking have on their post-glucose challenge and characterise whether there is a possible intervention strategy," said Ms Larsen.

Anyone interested in participating in the study is asked to contact the Baker Institute. For more information go to


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