Doing moderate-intensity exercise every day can lower your risk of developing diabetes, a new study suggests.
It’s well-known that being sedentary raises the risk of health problems such as heart disease and obesity.
But researchers found that doing simple activities such as brisk walking or gardening for just 30 minutes raised levels of a hormone that reduces appetite and lowers blood sugar levels.
However, the results were only apparent in men, which the team says could be due to physiological differences between men and women, or the fact that women generally tended to lower activity levels.
The study authors, from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, say their findings imply that even relatively short bouts of low-intensity daily physical activity may help prevent metabolic diseases like diabetes, at least in men.
A new study from the University of Copenhagen found that activities such as brisk walking or gardening secreted a hormone that suppressed appetite and lowered blood sugar levels (file image)
For the study, published in the journal Endocrine Connections, the team looked at the link between daily physical activity and a hormone that may indirectly lower the risk of diabetes.
The hormone, called Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), inhibits appetite, stimulates the production of insulin and helps lower blood sugar levels.
Previous research has suggested that exercise may cause GLP-1 secretion, but results been inconclusive.
But researchers think increasing levels of this hormone may lower the risk of metabolic disease.
To see if there was merit to this theory, the team recruited more than 1,300 overweight men and women and monitored their heart rates daily.
Levels of GLP-1 levels were measured before and after the participants drank glucose – a sort of nutritional drink sometimes given to people who are too sick to eat – to determine how much physical activity affected secretion of the hormone.
This was the equivalent of someone who is a pre-diabetic getting a blood sugar spike.
Results showed that 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercises increased levels of GLP-1 in men.
However, the same was not true for women, but the team says this may be because they were active only an average of 20 minutes a day.
‘The association between physical activity and GLP-1 secretion may only be seen in men due to physiological differences and generally lower activity levels for women in this study,’ said Dr Signe Torekov, an associate professor in the department of biomedical sciences at the University of Copenhagen.
‘It may also indicate that a certain minimum level of physical activity is required for the positive effect on GLP-1 levels, however more studies are required to confirm this.’
The researchers says the findings suggest at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day could improve metabolic health.
They note that high-intensity exercise can be too time consuming or physically demanding for many people.
Therefore, simply walking half an hour a day instead of taking public transportation could count as daily exercise.
‘Our study is encouraging as the results suggest that daily activity, even at a relatively low intensity and for a short amount of time such as brisk walking, gardening and playing with grandchildren, could improve appetite and blood glucose regulation,’ said Charlotte Janus, a PhD Student at the University of Copenhagen.
‘If you don’t have the time or ability to do high-intensity exercise, increasing your daily physical activity level may still…have positive impacts on your health.’