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Is this the secret to diabetes prevention?

Are you worried you or your child may develop type 2 diabetes? Or are you pre-diabetic or been diagnosed with the disease? There’s reassuring evidence on what you can do to help prevent or manage diabetes – and it’s science-backed.

New, large-scale research is again giving the prescriptive nod to exercise. Scientists have found being active can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, even in people who genetically have a high risk of developing the disease.

Researchers followed the health of 59,000+ adults in a biomedical database for about seven years. At the start of the study, the participants wore activity trackers on their wrists to measure the amount and intensity of their physical activity. The database contained participants’ health, lifestyle and genetic information, including markers associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but no personal identifiers.

Analysis of the data was revealing. Higher levels of physical activity were strongly associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, even after adjusting for genetic risk. Doing a little more than an hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day was associated with a 74% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with doing less than five minutes of physical activity.

Additionally, participants with a high genetic risk but who were most active had a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, compared to those with low genetic risk and who were least active.

“One of the risk factors of developing type 2 diabetes is not being physically active,” says Megan Radowski, registered nurse and diabetes care and education specialist at Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee, Wis. “This study supports results we’ve seen in other scientific studies of the overall protective effects of physical activity on preventing type 2 diabetes. And most interestingly, it indicates exercise can help those who have a high risk because of their family history.”

About one in 10 people in the U.S. have diabetes, and the vast majority (90-95%) have type 2 diabetes, according to the CDC. Even more alarming, while type 2 diabetes most often develops in people over age 45, more and more younger people are developing it, including children and teens.

“Being inactive can dramatically affect a person’s health, children and adults alike,” Radowski says. “Getting exercise is one of the most effective things you can do to help prevent type 2 diabetes and many other conditions.”

But what’s considered “moderate” or “vigorous” when it comes to exercise?

“Many activities count as moderate-intensity exercise, including hobbies and everyday chores,” Radowski says. “Gardening, playing doubles pickleball, walking briskly, climbing stairs, bicycling, raking leaves and even washing windows or your car counts – anything where you’re breathing a little harder but still able to talk.”

Vigorous activity is when you’re not able to say even a few words without taking a breath. This includes jogging, hiking uphill, and singles pickleball or tennis.

“The main thing is to move; our bodies thrive with more movement,” Radowski says. “Find something you enjoy, but also don’t forget just moving around your house can be a positive step in the right direction. Have you caught yourself sitting for an hour or more? Stand up and move around, even march in place for 10 to 15 minutes. Find ways to make this a daily intention; your glucose levels will thank you.”

Want to learn about your risk for diabetes? Take this free quiz. 

This article originally appeared on health enews.

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