Evidence is clear that doing at least 150 minutes weekly of moderate physical activity lowers risk for type 2-diabetes. Now, one study shows that even light physical activity may provide some benefit for people at highest risk.
Type 2-diabetes increases risk for several cancers, including those of the liver, colon and endometrium. Both diseases share many risk factors, including insulin resistance.
The study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, included 68 sedentary, overweight and obese adults with pre-diabetes. They were randomly assigned to two groups. Both groups attended two educational sessions at the beginning of the 3 month study, but only one group attended a supervised walking program – 60 minutes, 3 times per week.
All participants were given accelerometers – devices that measure and record amounts and levels of activity – for the duration of the study.
The walking pace in the supervised program was about 2 – 2.5 miles per hour. (Moderate walking is about 3-4 miles per hour.) Yet, even with that activity level, the walking group showed significant improvements in insulin resistance and lower LDL (the unhealthy cholesterol) and those changes were not related to weight loss.
Researchers then grouped all participants according to how many steps they averaged: Compared to those with the fewest steps, those with the most steps had a 10% reduction in visceral fat. Visceral fat is found deep within the abdomen and has been linked to increased risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
According to the authors these results show that even very low physical activity intensity can have clinical importance – reducing visceral fat, cholesterol and insulin resistance, all of which lower risk for type 2 diabetes.
And they say, their findings translate to practical physical activity guidelines for sedentary and obese people at high risk for type 2 diabetes (an estimated 79 million Americans): Engage in light physical activity such as walking around for about 90 minutes daily or get at least 6500 steps daily through leisure-time or household related activities.
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