Type 2 Diabetes and Physical Activity: Being Active Can Lower Disease Risk by 26 Percent, Study Finds

Eating healthy, losing weight, and being more active are known ways to prevent and manage diabetes, and two new studies based out of the United Kingdom suggest that those who walk or cycle for the recommended 150 minutes a week may reduce their risk of Type 2 diabetes by 26 percent.

With diabetes on the rise, (one in three people in the United States will develop Type 2 diabetes in their lifetime, the CDC reports) it’s important to gain a deeper understanding of the disease, as well as find new ways to prevent and treat it. Researchers are getting closer to understanding the specific exercise and diet routines that can help the 29.1 million people in the United States who have the condition.

In one meta-analysis, researchers examined data from more than one million adults without diabetes documented in 23 studies conducted across Europe, Asia, Australia and the US. Around 80,000 participants went on to develop Type 2 diabetes during the studies’ follow-up periods. Researchers looked at the effects of participants’ physical activity, and compared it to other behavioral factors like diet, according to a statement. The participants who exercised moderately 150 minutes a week had a 26 percent reduced risk of developing the condition.

In the second study, 41 adults with Type 2 diabetes between the ages of 18 and 75 were selected. This group was instructed by researchers to keep their diet or lifestyle habits consistent while walking 30 minutes each day over a 14-day period. After a 30-day ‘washout’ period, this was repeated with an alternative walking regimen. Those who walked after meals had significantly lower blood glucose levels than people who walked at other times, according to a statement.

“We already know that physical activity has a major role to play in tackling the growing worldwide epidemic of type 2 diabetes,” said researcher Dr Soren Brage from the University of Cambridge, in a press release.

“These new results add more detail to our understanding of how changes in the levels of physical activity across populations could impact the incidence of disease. They also lend support to policies to increase physical activity at all levels,” Brage explained. “This means building environments that make physical activity part of everyday life.”

Source: Smith A, Brage S, Woodcock J, Mann J, Reynolds A. New Studies Reveal The Importance Of Both The Amount And Timing Of Physical Activity On The Risk Of Developing Type 2 Diabetes, And In Aiding The Management Of The Disease. Springer. 2016.

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