Cutting Diabetes Risk Through Exercise

Diabetes is a condition that has grown markedly over the last twenty-five years. Consider that in 1996, there were approximately 7.6 million diabetics in the United States. By 2015, that number had tripled to over 23 million. Aside from making better dietary choices, recent research suggests that exercise might help reduce your diabetes risk. 

Red Flags 

A collaborative effort between researchers from China and the United Kingdom, this study appeared in the July 2019 issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine. This group examined the physical activity levels of nearly 45,000 Chinese adults over a 18 year timeframe. These participants were between the ages of 20 and 80, and all were living with a condition known as impaired fasting glucose (IFG). Amongst Chinese adults, IFG is often a precursor to the onset of diabetes. 

In addition to documenting diabetes risk, the study authors also tracked the subjects’ Leisure-time Physical Activity (LTPA), a category which included activities such as walking, jogging or running. Upon examining this data, the team noticed a connection between active lifestyles and a decreased likelihood of developing diabetes. Among a Chinese-born group in Taiwan with IFG, for example, the study found that those with high LTPA levels were 25% less at risk of diabetes than sedentary subjects. For people with low and moderate LTPA levels, this figure stood at 12 and 20 percent, respectively. 

More Activity, Better Health? 

Perhaps most notably, the authors contend that physically active lifestyles would have reduced the number of diabetics observed in the study by nearly 20 percent. One study author, Professor Neil Thomas from the University of Birmingham, stated in a press release that the team “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.”

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