Both in the prevention and in the treatment of diabetes, physical activity plays a key role. Any increase in the intensity and duration of the activity is beneficial.
U.S. health authorities have been overseeing a project called the Diabetes Prevention Program for many years. About 30 medical centers participate in the study, which aims to determine the extent to which lifestyle interventions can delay or prevent type 2 diabetes (T2D) in high-risk individuals (pre-diabetics with reduced glucose tolerance).
An evaluation of the changes in physical activity was recently completed. About 3,000 people have been followed for about 12 years. Each year, they reported information about changes in their physical activity, while the researchers periodically let them wear an accelerometer to gather objective data on their tendency to “exercise.” Every six months blood sugar levels were measured during blood tests, first in fasting state and then after sugar consumption (orally provoked hyperglycemia or glucose tolerance test).
The result is particularly instructive, as it appears that any increase in physical activity is accompanied by a reduction in the risk of developing diabetes. The minimum target is 150 minutes per week, at a rate equivalent to brisk walking. Crucially, the beneficial effect of physical activity is also significantly greater in participants who were less active at the outset.
“This underlines the importance of exercise in diabetes prevention, which should encourage doctors to consider both exercise and weight when advising high-risk patients. We know that being overweight contributes significantly to the risk of developing diabetes, and that weight loss is an essential part of diabetes management. Physical activity should therefore certainly not be neglected, either in terms of prevention or in the context of treatment,” the researchers concluded.