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For diabetes prevention, more exercise is associated with more benefits

New research confirmed the benefits of exercise in reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes: pooled analysis of 28 studies found that meeting recommended physical activity guidelines reduced diabetes risk by 26 per cent. However, the research also showed that more activity yielded significantly more benefits.

Researchers were already aware that exercise has a preventive effect against developing chronic conditions, including diabetes. What they didn’t know was the “dose response”: how much exercise yielded how much benefit.

The research was a meta-analysis (an analysis using data from several existing studies) of 28 prospective studies involving a total of 1,261,991 adults who did not have diabetes at the outset. All of these studies provided information about physical activity. Followup periods ranged from three years to 23 years, and a total of 84,134 people developed diabetes during the course of the studies.

The authors conclude that the study results indicate that in terms of exercise, “some is good but more is better.”

The biggest relative gains came by meeting the public health guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week. Meeting those guidelines resulted in a 26 per cent decrease in diabetes risk compared to people who were inactive.

However, more activity led to further reductions in diabetes risk. Doing the equivalent of double the public health activity guidelines resulted in a 36 per cent reduction in diabetes risk. Activity level equivalent to quadrupling the activity guidelines cut diabetes risk by more than half (a 53 per cent risk reduction).


The study was led by Andrea Smith of the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London. It was published online in Diabetologia on Oct. 17, 2016.

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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital