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Exercise and diabetes: A fresh look
October 30, 2016, 3:31 pm

A new in-depth study on the precise effect of exercise in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes reveal that while some physical activity is beneficial, more activity is even better.

The study comes at an opportune moment. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2012, an estimated 1.5 million deaths worldwide were directly caused by diabetes and another 2.2 million deaths were attributable to high blood glucose. Globally, the number of people suffering from diabetes jumped nearly four-fold, from 108 million in 1980 to over 422 million in 2014. During the same period, the prevalence of diabetes among adults over 18 years of age also nearly doubled going from 4.7 percent to 8.5 percent. Regrettably, this prevalence has been rising most rapidly in middle- and low-income countries and WHO believes that diabetes could become the seventh leading cause of death worldwide by 2030.

The new study, which gathered data from more than one million participants from four continents, reiterated that exercise can help manage known risk factors of diabetes such as being overweight or obese, as well as having high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels. What the in-depth study, which for the first time examined exercise independent from other influential factors such as diet or smoking, also found was that engaging in more exercise had an added-on benefit.

Currently, physical activity guidelines generally recommend 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week; this could include cycling, walking, or sports. However, studies show that fewer than 50 percent of adults are actually meeting these recommendations.

The researchers found that while any exercise is beneficial in staving off diabetes, individuals who exceeded the 150 minute recommendation saw the greatest benefits. According to the analysis, cycling or walking briskly for 150 minutes each week cuts the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 26 percent.

Those who exercise moderately or vigorously for an hour each day reduced their risk by 40 percent. At the other end of the scale, for those who did not manage to reach the 150 minute target, any amount of physical activity they carried out still reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes, but to a lesser extent.

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