Everyone knows that diabetes has been increasing at an alarming rate. Today, more than 9% of Americans live with the disease, and more than one quarter of the U.S. population has prediabetes. One of the reasons is our lack of movement. A survey from 2017 found that the average American gets fewer than 4800 steps per day.
This lack of movement relates to the stats that 15 to 20% of the prediabetes cases will turn into Type 2 diabetes within five years. This puts us on tract for a third of the U.S. population to have diabetes by 2050.
We realize this sounds gloomy, but you are not powerless. Diabetes is one of the conditions that you have some power over, and you’re about to get simple and easy tools to help you better your situation. Of course, like everything in life, the more you use the tools and apply the methods, the better you’ll get at it — but first: How did we get here?
The obvious answer for Type 2 and prediabetes is the food you eat. We eat more processed food and a lot more sugar than our ancestors did, and our bodies are just not used to it. Our genes are still 10,000 years old, so our bodies react better to unprocessed natural foods — the kind of stuff we ate while we were hunters and gatherers. Food choices are at the base of the solution.
Diet isn’t the only culprit. Have you noticed that most advancement in society comes with a reduced need for labor? Since our bodies are built for movement, it’s no surprise that we are so sick and riddled with disease. (This is actually old news. Bernardo Ramazzini, a 17th-century physician, was the first to note a link between sedentary behaviors and deteriorating health.) In 2011, researcher James O’Keefe published an article called “Exercise Like a Hunter-Gatherer.” In it, he suggested that we should move like our ancestors to maximize our gene expression. It is safe to say that a sedentary lifestyle doesn’t promote long-term health.
Physical activity promotes health — but you can’t rely on exercise countering poor eating habits. The two go hand in hand. And we have heard the common excuse “I don’t have time to exercise”. Let’s start off easy: Sit less. If you think about it, you sit during your commute, you may sit at work, you sit for meals, and you sit in front of the TV. Recent research on the negative effects of prolonged sitting is very strong. Long sitting periods can reduce the health benefits of a regular exercise routine. Make it a habit of standing up every 30 to 60 minutes. These brief interruptions will have a positive effect; research shows that reducing your sitting time by just 25% can have a significant influence.
Now that you are on your feet a bit more and taking a few steps, remember that it all adds up — every bit of movement is important. Make a habit of walking a few minutes before getting into work, and do the same when you leave. Take the stairs instead of riding the escalator. Go for a walk around the block at lunch time. Grab every chance you can to move. Sedentary is defined as fewer than 5,000 steps per day, so aim to gradually increase your steps to 7,500 steps per day. The more, the better!
The more movement you include in your life, the more control you’ll have. It’s never too late to take back control of your blood sugar and your health. It is within your reach.