Physical activity may be more important than diet for preventing type 2 diabetes, according to new research
03/14/2018 // Cassie B. // Views

The connection between diabetes and diet is well-established, but many people struggle to stick to a healthy eating regimen – even when they know that they could be putting their health at risk. If you find yourself sneaking in treats more often than you should, a new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has some great news for you.

According to the research, there is a very effective and easy way to reduce your risk of developing diabetes that doesn’t involve going on a diet or hitting the gym. Instead, it involves spending more time on leisure-time physical activity, or LTPA.

LTPA entails physical exercise and movement; walking, running, or jogging are good examples of this type of activity. If you can’t engage in high-intensity exercises, all hope is not lost. The researchers say that low-intensity exercise also offers some degree of protection.

After studying more than 44,000 Chinese adults between the ages of 20 and 80 who were identified as being at risk of developing diabetes over the course of 18 years, researchers from the University of Birmingham estimated that 20 percent of those who eventually developed the deadly disease would have avoided it if they had stuck to the exercise guidelines that were established by the World Health organization. For example, they said that 7 million Chinese adults with impaired fasting glucose could avoid diabetes simply by increasing their LTPA levels by one category, such as upping their activity level from low to moderate. More than three fourths of Chinese adults are not currently getting the physical activity levels needed to enjoy these diabetes-preventing effects.


The World Health Organization recommends that adults between the ages of 18 and 64 perform at least 150 minutes per week of aerobic physical activity at a moderate intensity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise.

Great rewards for little effort

This shouldn’t be considered a free pass to eat whatever you want as long as you exercise, but it does give people at high risk of developing diabetes another effective way to prevent it. According to the CDC, nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes, and 79 million are prediabetic, which means they are at a higher risk of developing full-blown diabetes.

Diabetes complications include blindness, amputation, kidney problems, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s. Those who don’t manage their diabetes properly can die from the condition. That’s why it’s so important to do everything you can to reduce your risk, and when all you have to do is move your body more, there really is no reason not to – it doesn’t take up too much of your time, it’s great for socializing, and it doesn’t cost you any money.

It’s even better if you enjoy your leisure-time physical activity outdoors, where you can reap the sun’s vitamin-D-boosting effects. A study from the Warwick Medical School found that those who maintain healthy levels of vitamin D are 55 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, in addition to being 51 percent less likely to develop metabolic syndrome and 33 percent less likely to develop cardiovascular disease.

One of the authors of that study, Dr. Johanna Parker, said that sunlight exposure is your best bet for getting vitamin D. She recommends 30 minutes twice a week of exposing your face and arms without sunscreen to get the right levels. Other studies show that Vitamin D can also help people who already have diabetes.

Even if you’re not at risk of diabetes, increasing your activity levels can benefit your health in many ways. This study illustrates just how much you can transform your health merely by exercising, so what are you waiting for? It’s time to get moving!

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