Exercise reduces risk of developing diabetes

Researchers have found that higher levels of Leisure-time Physical Activity (LTPA), such as walking, jogging or running, are linked to a lower risk of diabetes in high-risk individuals.

 

And they have observed health benefits from low-intensity physical activity too – making it possible for older people to take steps to improve their health and reduce the risk of diabetes.

 

Progressive deterioration in glucose metabolism occurs many years before the clinical diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, for which impaired fasting glucose (IFG) is an early detectable pathological change. Every year 6–9% of individuals with IFG progress to diabetes and, compared to people with normal blood sugar levels, such patients have a higher risk of death from vascular and chronic kidney disease.

 

The research team, led by experts from the University of Birmingham, recommends that swift action is taken by health chiefs to promote physical activity as a way of reducing diabetes and combating China’s growing obesity epidemic.

 

Over an 18-year period, researchers studied the lifestyles of 44,828 Chinese adults, aged between 20 and 80, who had been recently diagnosed with IFG – an early warning signal for type 2 diabetes affecting one in four Chinese adults.

 

Professor Neil Thomas, from the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Applied Health Research, commented: “We found that higher levels of LTPA are associated with a lower risk of diabetes in a large population of Chinese adults with IFG.

 

“About one fifth of the observed diabetes cases which developed could have been avoided if inactive individuals had engaged in World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended levels of exercise.

 

“In the approximately 370 million Chinese adults with IFG, increasing LTPA by one category – for example, from low to moderate – would correspond to a potential reduction of at least seven million cases of diabetes. It may also offset the rapid increases in diabetes resulting from population ageing and China’s ongoing obesity epidemic.

 

“However, more than three-quarters of Chinese adults do not perform sufficient physical activity to reap such health benefits. Our findings emphasise the urgent need to promote physical activity as a strategy for diabetes prevention.”

 

The research team included experts from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan and MJ Health Research Foundation, Taipei, Taiwan.

 

Reference: ‘Increased leisure-time physical activity associated with lower onset of diabetes in 44 828 adults with impaired fasting glucose: a population-based prospective cohort study’ is published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2018/01/12/bjsports-2017-098199 (DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2017-098199)

 

4 March 2018.