A new study finds women who spend four to seven hours a day sitting are more likely to show early signs of type 2 diabetes, but researchers have found no such link in men. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages all women to take steps to increase physical activity and decrease their risk of developing diabetes.

“The reality for many Americans is that we work nine-to-five jobs and are sedentary most of the work day, increasing our risk for developing type 2 diabetes,” said registered dietitian and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson Jessica Crandall. “The good news is that type 2 diabetes is preventable through maintaining a healthy weight and engaging in physical activity throughout the day, not just after you get home from work.”

The risk is still significant for women even if they engage in moderate or vigorous physical activity after a sedentary day at the office, according to the study published recently in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

“If you have a desk job, fight the urge to be a desk potato and take frequent breaks throughout the day—go for a walk or go to the gym during lunch, and instead of picking up the phone to call a coworker during the day, walk to his or her office to talk,” Crandall said.

Crandall also recommends taking short stress breaks throughout the day. “During the day, take a brisk ten-minute walk, stretch your muscles and stand while you’re on the phone instead of sitting,” she said. “Also, keep the candy bowl off your desk to avoid the urge to nibble for stress relief.”

According to Crandall, it is also important to know if you are at an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Risk factors include obesity, physical inactivity, older age, family history of diabetes, history of gestational diabetes or race/ethnicity.

The prevalence of diabetes is at least two to four times higher among African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, and Asian/Pacific Islander women than among white women. Because of the increasing lifespan of women and the rapid growth of minority populations, the number of women in the United States at high risk for diabetes and its complications is increasing.

“If you’re at risk for developing diabetes, work with a registered dietitian to develop an eating plan tailored for your lifestyle,” Crandall said.

“When you take steps to prevent diabetes, you will also lower your risk for possible complications of diabetes such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, nerve damage and other health problems—that’s a big reward for you and your family and friends,” Crandall said. “A registered dietitian is the one of your best teammates when making these lifestyle changes.”

Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics