Brisk walking or gardening could counteract the genetic risk of the diabetes study

By | June 5, 2023

Brisk walking, dancing or gardening could reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes even in people with a high genetic risk of developing the condition, new research suggests.

The study found that higher levels of total physical activity, especially moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity, were strongly linked to a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

According to the researchers, the findings suggest that exercise should be promoted as the main strategy for the prevention of type 2 diabetes, which affects nearly four million people in the UK.



We are unable to control our genetic risk and family history, but this finding provides promising and positive news that through active lifestyles, much of the excessive risk of type 2 diabetes can be combated.

Associate Professor Melody Ding, University of Sydney

Senior author Associate Professor Melody Ding from the University of Sydney’s School of Medicine and Health said that while the role of genetics and physical activity in the onset of type 2 diabetes is well established, up to to date most data have been self-reported and there was little evidence whether genetic risk could be counteracted by physical activity.

He added: We are unable to control our genetic risk and family history, but this finding provides promising and positive news that through active lifestyles, much of the excessive risk of type 2 diabetes can be combated.

Ms. Ding said moderate-intensity physical activity describes movements that make you sweaty and slightly out of breath, such as brisk walking and general gardening.

Examples of vigorous-intensity physical activity include running, aerobic dance, cycling uphill or at a fast pace, and heavy gardening such as digging.

These are all activities that make you short of breath or make you breathe heavily.

The study involved 59,325 adults from the UK Biobank, a database containing genetic, lifestyle and health information from half a million people who wore accelerometers (wrist-worn activity trackers) at the start of the study.

They were then followed up for up to seven years to monitor health outcomes.

The data included information on genetic markers associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

People with a high genetic risk score had a 2.4 times greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those with a low genetic risk score, the researchers suggest.

The study found that more than one hour of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity per day was associated with a 74 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with people who did less than five minutes of physical activity.

People with a high genetic risk but who were in the most physically active category had a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those with a low genetic risk but in the least active category, the research found.

Ms Ding, whose father was recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in his 60s, added: My father’s side of the family has a history of type 2 diabetes, so the result of the study is extremely encouraging for me and the my family.

As an already active person, I now have extra motivation to maintain this active lifestyle.

Our hope is that this study will inform public health and clinical guidelines so it can help prevent chronic disease for healthcare professionals, organizations and the public.

The findings were published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

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