(NaturalNews) Just one week of exercise appeared to reduce the risk of diabetes in sedentary older people at risk of the disease, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan and published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Researchers measured insulin sensitivity and beta cell function in 12 sedentary people aged 60 and over both before and after a one-week exercise stint composed of one hour of exercise per day. All participants worked out on a treadmill, exercise bike and cross-training machine hard enough to reach 60 to 70 percent of their maximum heart rate capacity.
After one week, insulin sensitivity in the participants had decreased by 53 percent, while beta cell function had improved by 28 percent. No changes were detected in other diabetes risk factors such as body fat mass or blood fat levels.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body becomes less sensitive to the blood sugar-regulating hormone insulin, which is secreted by beta cells in the pancreas. This decreased sensitivity leads to the high blood sugar levels that can cause damage to the body's organs or even be fatal if untreated.
Aging is known to lead to decreases in insulin sensitivity and beta cell function, though the reason for these changes is not understood.
"Longer-term exercise training studies are required and are currently in progress to evaluate further exercise training effects on beta cell function in age-related glucose intolerance," the researchers wrote.
An estimated 20 million people in the United States, or 7 percent of the population, have been diagnosed with diabetes
, while another 6.2 million are undiagnosed and 41 million are prediabetic, according the American Diabetes Association. It is one of the world's fastest growing diseases; worldwide, the number of diabetes patients is expected to increase from 171 million to 350 million by 2030.