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Does Exercise Help Prevent Diabetes?

Does exercise help prevent diabetes? Yes and no. The benefits of exercise for people with diabetes are transient, and varying levels of activity may be necessary. For example, people with type 2 diabetes should aim to complete 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity, divided over 3 days of the week. Although the results of many clinical trials are not conclusive, they indicate that aerobic activity may decrease the risk of developing diabetes.

Among diabetics, moderate-intensity physical activity may lower insulin resistance, improve blood glucose control, and reduce cardiovascular risk. In addition, resistance exercise, such as brisk walking, may help prevent diabetes by improving the body’s ability to utilize insulin and absorb glucose. As a result, exercise helps prevent the development of type 2 diabetes. While this may sound counterintuitive, studies show that exercising reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes by reducing the incidence of obesity, heart disease, and stroke.

During a controlled study, people with type 2 diabetes were encouraged to increase their total unstructured PA. This type of activity, also called non-exercise activity thermogenesis, can create a large daily caloric deficit and limit weight gain. The obese people were found to have a 3.5-hr decrease in unstructured activity than lean participants. The lean subjects were found to have greater activity when they were walking at low velocity, and the increase in activity was seen to be statistically significant.

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