Although any amount of exercise is beneficial, exceeding the recommended level produces the most benefits for diabetes patients.
A comprehensive study examining the impact of exercise alone on an individual’s risk of developingtype 2 diabetesfound that an hour of moderate-to-vigorous exercise daily can reduce the risk by 40%.
The UK Department of Health recommends that individuals engage in 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise a week, including doubles tennis, brisk walking, and gentle cycling. This can result in the reduction of risk by up to 26%.
However, as many as one-third of adults are not meeting this target, according to the Health Survey for England. A study published inDiabetologiaexamined the impact of exercise on a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, independent of other behavioral factors, such as diet.
For the study, researchers analyzed summarized data from 23 studies conducted in the United States, Europe, Asia, and Australia, which totaled more than 1 million people. Combining the observations from these studies allowed researchers to separate the effect of leisure time physical activity from other behavioral factors, and to obtain better estimates of the effects of different physical activity levels.
Since prior studies would often include changes to both diet and physical activity, it would create challenges to isolate the impact of physical activity alone.
“Our results suggest a major potential for physical activity to slow down or reverse the global increase in type 2 diabetes and should prove useful for health impact modelling, which frequently forms part of the evidence base for policy decisions,” said lead researcher Andrea Smith.
Although any amount of physical activity is beneficial, the results of the study showed that individuals reap the most benefit when they exceed the recommended level of exercise.
“This research shows that some physical activity is good, but more is better,” said study co-author Soren Brage. “We already know that physical activity has a major role to play in tackling the growing worldwide epidemic of type 2 diabetes. 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. This means building environments that make physical activity part of everyday life.”