Type 2 diabetes may run in your family, but that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to live with the disease.
Middle-aged U.K. residents who exercised moderately or vigorously for an hour or more a day were 74% less likely to develop the potentially debilitating condition than those who were sedentary, according to a study published Monday in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
The same held true even among those who were genetically predisposed to the disease, which tends to run in families.
What’s more, those who were at high genetic risk of developing the metabolic disorder—but who exercised often, and at high intensity—developed the condition less frequently than those who were at low genetic risk but generally inactive.
“We are unable to control our genetic risk and family history, but this finding provides promising and positive news that through an active lifestyle, one can ‘fight off’ much of the excessive risk for type 2 diabetes,” Melody Ding, an associate professor at the University of Sydney School of Public Health in Australia, said in a news release about the study.
The condition runs in Ding’s family, and her father, in his 60s, was recently diagnosed with it—making her work on the study even more meaningful.
“As an already active person, I now have extra motivation to keep this active lifestyle,” she said.
How to reduce type 2 diabetes risk through exercise
Experts tend to recommend at least 30 minutes a day of physical activity, five days a week, to ward off type 2 diabetes—a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke, and lower limb amputation.
Researchers found, however, that 68.4 minutes or more a day was the magic number for most study participants. The intensity of the exercise was also key, they found. How can you tell if your exercise is vigorous enough to be protective?
According to Ding, the right kind of exercise will:
- get you sweating
- leave you breathless to some degree
- Examples include:
- brisk walking
- aerobic dancing
- cycling uphill or at a fast pace
- heavy gardening, which may involve digging
Added Mengyun Luo, a doctoral degree candidate at the University of Sydney and lead author on the study: “If you have a family history of type 2 diabetes—or even if you don’t—today is the day to start being physically active.”