Researchers from the University of Florida have reported that prediabetes is on the rise. Fortunately, there may be a solution. Another study—this one from Duke Health—examined the effects of different exercise intensities on glucose homeostasis. The good news is it doesn’t have to be “go big or go home” for people to benefit.
The study, published in Diabetologia (2016; doi:10.1007/s00125-016-4051-z), included 237 adults aged 45–75 who were free of cardiovascular disease, uncontrolled hypertension and diabetes. They were separated into three exercise groups: low amount/moderate intensity (equivalent to walking 8.6 miles per week); high amount/moderate intensity (equivalent to 13.8 miles walked per week); and high amount/vigorous intensity (same distance as group two, but jogging instead of walking). A fourth group completed the same protocol as group one but included a nutrition component that emphasized calorie restriction and a reduction in fat intake. The intervention lasted 6 months.
Results showed that the diet-plus-exercise group led the pack with a glucose tolerance improvement of 8.2%. This was the only group to experience a decrease in fasting glucose levels. The high-amount/moderate-intensity group improved glucose tolerance by 6.4% and the low-amount/moderate-intensity group followed with a 5% improvement. The high-amount/high-intensity group’s improvements were considered insignificant at 1.2%.
“These data, combined with numerous published observations of the strong independent relation between postprandial glucose concentrations and prediction of future diabetes, suggest that walking ~18.2 km [11.3 miles] per week may be nearly as effective as a more intensive multicomponent approach involving diet, exercise and weight loss for preventing the progression to diabetes in prediabetic individuals,” the authors explained. “These findings have important implications for the choice of clinical intervention to prevent progression to type 2 diabetes for those at high risk.”