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June 12, 2023

Regular exercise may lower type 2 diabetes risk, study finds

An hour of physical activity daily lowered study participants' risk of developing the disease by up to 74%

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Exercise Type 2 Diabetes William Choquette/Pexels

A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that an hour of physical activity lowered the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Exercising regularly can lessen the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to new research. 

A study published last week in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that people who engaged in an hour of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) a day lowered their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 74%, compared to those who did not. But study participants who did any amount of daily MVPA lowered their risk, including those with higher genetic odds of developing type 2 diabetes.

“The latest findings shouldn’t surprise any endocrinologist,” Mark H. Schutta, M.D., medical director of the Penn Rodebaugh Diabetes Center, told Prevention. “But the nice thing about this study is that I can show it to a patient who I can’t even get to walk and say, 'Look, see? This can help.'”

Brisk walking, running, fast-paced or uphill biking, dancing, HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts or intense gardening are all examples of MVPA. Basically, any movement that makes people sweat and breathless to a degree is ideal, according to the research.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from over 59,000 people ages 40-69 in the U.K. Biobank biomedical database. According to the CDC, more than 37 million Americans have diabetes, and around 90-95% of them have type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is a disease caused by the body's struggle to regulate and use sugar, or glucose, as fuel; the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, a hormone that helps blood sugar enter the body’s cells to be used for energy, and cells respond poorly to insulin and take in less sugar. The long-term results are an overabundance of sugar in the blood, which can lead to circulatory, nervous and immune system disorders.

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include age, weight and family history. There is no cure, but healthy eating, an active lifestyle and medication can help manage the disease. Exercise helps the body regulate glucose, sensitizes the body to insulin and increases fat-burning.

This isn't the first study on the topic. Previous research has found that brisk walking as well as taking thousands of steps a day can lower type 2 diabetes risk. 

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