Study after study has shown that exercise keeps you healthy. Still, the rates of obesity and diabetes continue to grow. Once again, researchers have shown that staying active cuts diabetes risk.
People who exercised more had a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, no matter how fat they were when the study began.
Obesity and low levels of physical activity boost the risk of diabetes. Luckily, these two factors can be changed.
Past studies have suggested that higher levels of physical activity may lower the risk of diabetes, regardless of whether someone is obese or not. However, according to Ulf Ekelund, PhD, of the University of Cambridge, and colleagues, few of these previous studies looked at large populations.
Many of these past studies examined the effects of physical activity in men only, or women only. They also tended to separate participants into only two activity groups (active versus inactive) or two weight groups (obese versus non-obese).
Dr. Ekelund and colleagues looked at the relationships between physical activity and body fat in men and women of varying weights, and how these relationships affected diabetes risk.
They found that physical activity was linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes for people across all categories of body mass index, or BMI (a measure of body fat using height and weight).
Participants were grouped into four groups based on how much they exercised: inactive, moderately inactive, moderately active, and active. They were also split into three weight groups: normal-weight (BMI of less than 25), overweight (BMI of 25 to 30) and obese (BMI of 30 or more).
For men, just a one-category improvement in physical activity was associated with a 13 percent reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. For women, a one-category difference was associated with a 7 percent reduced risk.
Lower levels of physical activity raised the risk of diabetes in both men and women, regardless of their amount of abdominal fat.
However, the increased risk linked to low levels of physical activity was lower in abdominally obese women than in women with less abdominal fat.
These results suggest that the amount people exercise may predict the development of type 2 diabetes. Those who exercise more have the ability to significantly reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes, no matter how skinny or obese they are.
According to the authors, promoting physical activity could help prevent type 2 diabetes.
The study - which included 12,403 cases of type 2 diabetes - was funded by the European Union and the Medical Research Council, UK.
The research is published in the journal Diabetologia.