Exercise can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, even in genetically predisposed people

  • Moderate to vigorous physical activity benefits people with a genetic predisposition to type 2 diabetes, according to a new study.
  • The most active people in the study reduced their risk of type 2 diabetes by 74% compared to the least active participants over a follow-up period of 6.8 years.
  • The study also found that any physical activity can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes: the more activity, the better.

Not surprisingly, according to existing research, moderate to vigorous physical activity promotes overall good health.

Research has also shown that it can help prevent chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, in many people. But what does it do for people who have a familial predisposition to type 2 diabetes?

A new study examines this question and finds that moderate to vigorous physical activity is linked to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, and that the association is observed regardless of genetic predisposition to the condition. The effect is dose-dependent, with more activity linked to a greater protective effect.

Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for more than an hour a day was associated with a 74% lower risk of type 2 diabetes than the least active people studied.

The findings are based on an analysis of data from 59,325 participants, aged 40 to 69, whose data presents the UK Biobank.

Baseline data was collected between 2006 and 2010, and from 2013 to 2015 a subset of individuals were monitored wearing wrist accelerometers for 7 consecutive days. Participants were followed for an average of 6.8 years.

The study is published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

“Diabetes is a serious, common and costly disease. Prevention is the key. I think it’s important to reinforce the importance of physical activity in preventing type 2 diabetes, especially in people with a family history,” said the study’s lead researcher, Dr Melody DingFor Medical News Today.

Dr Ding is Associate Professor at the Sydney School of Public Health, School of Medicine and Health, University of Sydney, Australia.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that in 2022, 37.3 million people – 11.3% of the US population – had some form of diabetes. Of these people, 28.7 million had been diagnosed, and an additional 8.5 million people were unaware they had the disease.

In 2017, diabetes was checked in as the underlying or contributing cause of death for 270,702 US residents.

Unmanaged type 2 diabetes is associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage, visual impairment, hearing loss, skin problems, dementia, apnea sleep and slow healing.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) said that type 2 diabetes is more closely linked to a family history with the disease than type 1 diabetes. However, the disease can be triggered by genetic or environmental factors, or both.

Dr. Ding emphasized, “Physical activity is not synonymous with exercise. You don’t have to think “now I have to go to the gym, jog, an hour a day”. “

“Physical activity,” Dr. Ding said, “refers to all bodily movements, whether or not they are intended for exercise. This could include working in the garden, walking to a bus stop , cycling to work, taking stairs instead of an elevator.

It is also true that beneficial activity can be accumulated over brief periods during the day.

The study also found that although the risk reduction was stronger for more moderate to vigorous physical activity, any physical activity may help protect against type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Paul Arcieroprofessor in the Department of Health Sciences and Human Physiology in Skidmore, NY, not involved in the study, said DTM:

“Even those who engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity still had a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, this is a powerful finding and reinforces the need to engage in any amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity. on a regular basis.”

“This study,” he added, “provides new data showing that there is no minimum or maximum threshold for benefits from moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in people at greatest genetic risk. type 2 diabetes”.

“We could say,” Dr. Ding noted, “that the most active group consistently had only a fraction of the risk in the genetic risk groups compared to the least active group.”

“However, because the high genetic risk group had a much higher baseline risk, the absolute risk reduction was greatest in this group,” Dr. Ding said.

“In other words,” she added, “if we get everyone to be active, the genetic high-risk group would benefit the most in terms of the number of type 2 diabetes cases averted. “.

The study measured moderate to vigorous physical activity – not exercise specifically – Dr. Ding pointed out. Still, Dr. Arciero has suggested safe ways to get active through exercise if one wishes to do so:

“Weightless modes are the safest, such as recumbent, rowing, swimming, elliptical, and even walking/jogging/running on soft surfaces are recommended,” he said. .

Dr. Ding concluded, “I think the take-home message is, ‘Doing something is better than doing nothing, and doing more is even better.’ » »

“If it’s within your abilities,” she said, “increase the activity to at least moderate — so you sweat a little and get a little short of breath.”

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