Research shows that exercise reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.

how exercise can help

The Key Takeaways

  • Recent studies support the idea that exercise may prevent Type 2 diabetes from developing.
  • An analysis of older women found that people who walked more often had lower chances of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
  • One study of men showed that people who exercise more often had lower chances of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Being physically active can help lower the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.

“It appears that physical activity significantly alters the body’s metabolism profile, and many of those changes are associated with lower risk of type-2 diabetes,” Maria Lankinen (Doctor of Philosophy), research scientist at the Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition, University of Eastern Finland and one of the authors of the study published in Metabolite. “Increased activity also increased insulin secretion.”

About the Step Study

The Diabetes Care study focused on 4,838 older women (median 78.9) who had not been diagnosed with diabetes and were followed for as long as 6.9 years. To account for their steps and intensity, accelerometers were used to monitor them.

Alexis C. Garduno is a third-year student at San Diego State University joint doctoral program and University of California San Diego. “This study demonstrated that more exercise was associated with lower diabetes risk in older adults,” she said.

After adjustment, the hazard of type 2 diabetes in older women was 12% lower for each 2000 step/day increment.

John Bellettiere (assistant professor of family medicine at UC San Diego and co-author of the study) said, “For diabetes among older adults our findings indicate that moderate to vigorous-intensity step were more strongly associated with a higher risk of diabetes than light intensity steps.”

Dr. Bellettiere says that the same group of older women also studied mortality, mobility impairment, and cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Bellettiere says that light intensity exercise was necessary for prevention in all of these outcomes. However, moderate- to vigorous-intensity activities were always more beneficial in each case.

The Metabolites Study

The data used in the study on men’s physical activity was taken from 8,749 men who were part of the METabolic Syndrome In Men study in Finland. They were 58 years old, with a median age of 58. Men did not have diabetes at baseline. They were then followed for 7.8 year to be reassessed for diabetes. The questionnaires assessed the men’s exercise habits and provided information about their physical activity.

Dr. Lankinen, the lead researcher, says that participants who were more physically active were healthier and had lower type 2 diabetes risk than those who were less active.

Men who exercised more had a 39% lower chance of developing type 2 diabetes than those who were less active. Also, increased levels of physical activity were associated with higher insulin sensitivity and insulin production.

What does exercise have to do with diabetes risk?

Regular physical activity is linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance according to studies. Physical activity can also increase insulin sensitivity and regulate blood sugar levels.

There are many types of exercise that can be beneficial in preventing type 2 diabetes. Strength training like lifting weights and aerobic activity such as swimming or walking can both improve blood sugar regulation.

How much exercise is necessary?

Dr. Lankinen says that the current recommendations for physical activity to prevent type 2 diabetes include at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity per week.

She adds that “In our study, participants who were most physically active had to be doing at least 90 minutes per week. We still saw the health benefits of this activity compared to those who did not do any or very little.”

Similar results were obtained in the Diabetes Care study of older women. The researchers found that just walking around the block once was considered to be a moderately intense activity for this age group.

Dr. Bellettiere explains that as we age, our energy costs increase, so it takes more effort to perform a given movement. For a healthy middle-aged adult, the same stroll around the block would be considered light exercise.

Dr. Lankinen recommends that you pay more attention the amount of physical activity you do each day, and not the type or duration of it. You will be more likely to keep doing the activities you love.

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