If you add physical activity to your life — even a bit at a time — you might be doing more than just losing weight. You’ll be reducing your chances of getting diabetes.
People who aren’t very fit are two to three times more likely to develop diabetes, according to a new study published in Diabetes Care.
The study was interesting because it tracked almost 4,000 people for 20 years to find out the relationship between their fitness levels and whether they developed diabetes. In the end, people with lower levels of fitness were significantly at higher risk of developing diabetes over the 20 years.
Patterns of physical activity are often established early and don’t change much. “Patients who have low fitness in their late teens and 20s tend to stay the same later in life or even get worse,” says Dr. Mercedes Carnethon of Northwestern University in Little Falls, N.J., who led the study.
So how can you get started? It is ideal to exercise for 30 to 60 minutes a day. But Carnethon suggests that if that’s not part of your lifestyle, you can begin with small changes and build towards more exercise.
“I encourage building up smaller periods of activity over the course of the day. Although 10-minute bouts of moderate to vigorous activity are ideal, there is evidence that small intense bouts of activity are also helpful. Those include taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, getting off the bus one (or two) stops early and walking the remainder of the distance, and taking brief ‘activity breaks’ during long periods of sitting,” says Carnethon.
She also suggests committing to “family walks” before or after mealtime and planning weekend activities such as going to parks and being physically active while there.
You can also build fitness into the time you spend on community service. For example, she says, many animal shelters welcome volunteers who are willing to come and walk their dogs and play with them. “My recommendations are that individuals make a commitment to incorporating activity into their daily living and find activities that are fun and can be sustained year round. By doing so, physical activity can become a habit.”