“Some Is Good, More Is Better”: Regular Exercise Can Cut Your Diabetes Risk


Newswise — Walking briskly or cycling for the recommended 150 minutes a week can reduce a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 26%, according to new research by UCL and the University of Cambridge.

People who carry out an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise every day can reduce their risk of getting type 2 diabetes by 40%. The study also revealed that any amount of physical activity can reduce the risk of developing the disease.

The research, published in the journal Diabetologia, is the most comprehensive study to look at the impact of exercise, independent of other behavioural factors such as diet, on a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The UK Department of Health recommends 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a week, which includes brisk walking, gentle cycling or sports such as doubles tennis. According to the Health Survey for England (2012), as many as a third of adults are not meeting this target.

The study, which analysed summarized data from over a million people, demonstrated that while any amount of physical activity is good for you, the benefits of exercise are greater for people who exceed this recommended level.

The study analysed data from 23 studies carried out in the USA, Asia, Australia and Europe. By combining observations from these studies, the researchers were able to separate out the effect of leisure time physical activity from other behavioural factors, and obtain better estimates of the effects of different physical activity levels.

Previous studies have often included changes to both diet and physical activity, making it difficult to isolate the impact of physical activity alone.

“Our results suggest a major potential for physical activity to slow down or reverse the global increase in type 2 diabetes and should prove useful for health impact modelling, which frequently forms part of the evidence base for policy decisions.“, said Andrea Smith (UCL Health Behaviour Research Centre and Institute of Public Health, University of Cambridge), who led the study.

The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is growing rapidly due to rising obesity levels and is estimated to reach nearly 600 million cases worldwide by 2035.

“This research shows that some physical activity is good, but more is better,” said Dr Soren Brage, co-author of the study from the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit at Cambridge University.

“We already know that physical activity has a major role to play in tackling the growing worldwide epidemic of type 2 diabetes. These new results add more detail to our understanding of how changes in the levels of physical activity across populations could impact the incidence of disease. They also lend support to policies to increase physical activity at all levels. This means building environments that make physical activity part of everyday life.”

Notes to Editors

For a copy of the paper or to speak to the researchers, please contact Margaret-Anne Orgill in the UCL press office, T: +44 (0)7572 602345 E: m.orgill@ucl.ac.uk

‘Physical activity and incident type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and dose–response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies’ will be published in Diabetologia on 17 October 2016.

Diabetologia will issue a separate embargoed press release with more details about this study. If you would like a copy of the press release, please contact Tony Kirby at tony@tonykirby.com

UCL (University College London) UCL was founded in 1826. We were the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to open up university education to those previously excluded from it, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. We are among the world's top universities, as reflected by performance in a range of international rankings and tables. UCL currently has over 35,000 students from 150 countries and over 11,000 staff. Our annual income is more than £1 billion.

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The Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit The MRC Epidemiology Unit is a department at the University of Cambridge. It studies the genetic, developmental and environmental factors that cause obesity, type 2 diabetes and related metabolic disorders. The outcomes from these studies are then used to develop strategies for the prevention of these diseases in the general population.

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About the University of Cambridge The mission of the University of Cambridge is to contribute to society through the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence. To date, 90 affiliates of the University have won the Nobel Prize. Cambridge is a global university. Its 19,000 student body includes 3,700 international students from 120 countries. Cambridge researchers collaborate with colleagues worldwide, and the University has established larger-scale partnerships in Asia, Africa and America. The University sits at the heart of one of the world’s largest technology clusters. The ‘Cambridge Phenomenon’ has created 1,500 hi-tech companies, 12 of them valued at over US$1 billion and two at over US$10 billion. Cambridge promotes the interface between academia and business, and has a global reputation for innovation.

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