Exercising lowers the risk of developing diabetes, study finds

Exercising more reduces the risk of diabetes and could see seven million fewer diabetes patients in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, according to a new study.

Researchers have found that higher levels of leisure-time physical activity (LPTA), such as walking, jogging, or running, are linked to a lower risk of diabetes in high-risk people.

And they also observed the health benefits of low-intensity physical activity, which allows older people to take steps to improve their health and reduce the risk of diabetes.

The research team, led by experts from the University of Birmingham, recommends that rapid action be taken by health leaders to promote physical activity as a means of reducing diabetes and tackling the growing epidemic obesity in China.

Over an 18-year period, researchers studied the lifestyles of 44,828 Chinese adults, ages 20 to 80, who had recently been diagnosed with impaired fasting blood sugar (IFG) – a signal of early warning for type 2 diabetes affecting one in four Chinese adults. .

Professor Neil Thomas, from the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Applied Health Research, commented: “We found that higher levels of LTPA are associated with a lower risk of diabetes in a large population of Chinese adults with IFG.

“About one-fifth of the observed cases of diabetes that developed could have been prevented if inactive people had engaged in the levels of exercise recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Among the approximately 370 million Chinese adults with IFG, increasing LTPA by one category – for example, from low to moderate – would correspond to a potential reduction of at least seven million cases of diabetes. It could also offset the rapid increases in diabetes resulting from the aging population and the ongoing obesity epidemic in China.

“However, more than three-quarters of Chinese adults do not engage in sufficient physical activity to derive such health benefits. Our findings underscore the urgent need to promote physical activity as a diabetes prevention strategy.”

The research team included experts from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan, and MJ Health Research Foundation, Taipei, Taiwan. Their findings were published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Researchers studied an IFG population of Chinese descent in Taiwan, tracking their health status from 1996 to 2014. Compared to inactive participants, the risk of diabetes in those reporting low, moderate, and high volume of APLT increased was reduced by 12%, 20% and 25% respectively after adjusting for physical labor at work and other factors.

Researchers found that 19.2% of diabetes cases could have been prevented if inactive participants had engaged within the WHO recommended levels for LTPA.

Estimates suggest that there are approximately 112 million diabetes patients in the Greater China region (Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), accounting for 40-60% of premature deaths before the age of 60 and at least 51 billions of dollars of economic burden.

The progressive deterioration of glucose metabolism occurs several years before the clinical diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, for which IFG is an early detectable pathological change.

People with IFG constitute a significant proportion of the Chinese population, with 25% of Chinese adults meeting the American Diabetes Association (ADA) definition of IFG.

Each year, 6-9% of people with IFG progress to diabetes and, compared to people with normal blood sugar levels, these patients have a higher risk of death from chronic vascular and kidney disease.

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Material provided by University of Birmingham. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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