Walking briskly or cycling for 150 minutes a week can reduce a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 26%, according to a new research review from University College London and the University of Cambridge, in England. That’s positive, but people who do an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise every day (420 minutes a week) can lower their risk by 40%.

The research, published in the journal Diabetologia, is the most comprehensive study to look at the impact of exercise (independent of other behavioral factors, such as diet) on a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

By analyzing summarized data from over a million people, the researchers were able to demonstrate that while any amount of physical activity is good for you, the benefits of exercise are greater for people who exceed the standard recommendation of 150 minutes a week.

The scientists reviewed 23 studies carried out in the USA, Asia, Australia and Europe, combining observations from all the studies, and then separating out the effect of leisure-time physical activity from other behavioral factors to better estimate the effects of physical activity levels. Previous studies have often included changes to both diet and physical activity, making it difficult to isolate the impact of exercise alone.

“Our results suggest a major potential for physical activity to slow down or reverse the global increase in type 2 diabetes and should prove useful for health impact modeling, which frequently forms part of the evidence base for policy decisions,” said Andrea Smit of the UCL Health Behaviour Research Centre, who led the study. She was quoted in a UCL news release distributed by Newswire.

The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is growing rapidly owing to rising obesity levels and is projected to reach nearly 600 million cases worldwide by 2035.