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Diabetes and Physical Activity: More is better

A recent review of the relationship between physical activity and Type 2 diabetes has confirmed that any amount of physical activity we perform is beneficial to cutting our risks of developing diabetes.
The current UK guidelines are to meet at least the 150mins of moderate intensity exercise (i.e. brisk walking/cycling) per week. But if you can manage to fit in greater amounts (i.e duration per week) and of a more vigorous intensity (aerobics, spinning classes for example), the research shows you will gain greater benefits and reduction in risk.
When comparing the effect of physical activity in terms of duration and intensity against sedentary levels, the following was identified:

  • 150mins of moderately intense activity per week = 26% reduction in risk of type 2 diabetes
  • 300mins of moderate intensity activity per week = 36% reduction in risk

Moving at vigorous intensity lead to additional benefits, moving at a lower intensity returned lesser benefits – but benefits all the same.
The Department of Health developed guidelines to help provide structure for what the recommended amount of exercise was for children, adults and older adults.

  1. The aim for all adults is to be active on a daily basis
  2. Over a week, adults should perform at least 150 minutes (2 ½ hours) of activity at a moderate intensity

The 150 minutes can be completed in 10 minute bouts or more during the day.
Over a week, adults should perform at least 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity

  1. On at least two days a week, resistance based activity should be performed to improve muscle strength.
  2. The time spent being sedentary such as sitting should be reduced

Moderate Intensity means participating in an activity which raises your heart rate, makes you warmer and causes you to breathe harder. For example brisk walking, gentle swimming and cycling.

Diabetes and Physical Activity
Diabetes and Physical Activity

Vigorous intensity means participating in activities which makes holding a conversation difficult because the heart rate is beating rapidly and breathing rate is much higher. The activity will make you warmer too. Examples include running, sports and swimming.
Resistance training involves using the large main muscles in the body to move against a resistance. You can use your body weight (e.g. squats, lunges and press ups) or exercise with weights.
The key message to take away is to minimise the time spent sitting still and get moving even for 10 minutes at a time during the day.
For more information on the UK physical activity guidelines and how to get yourself active, visit
So keep in mind, if you cannot quite make that 150mins to begin with, you still will see some benefits with any increase in activity levels – but if you can do more then definitely do so!

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