New Studies Suggest Benefits of Exercise for People With Type 2 Diabetes

ABC News' Dr. Richard Besser breaks down the latest research.

ByABC News
October 18, 2016, 9:58 AM

— -- New studies that took a deeper look at the role of exercise in treating people with Type 2 diabetes determined that both the timing and quantity of exercise can have an impact on people with the disease.

Nearly 10 percent of the U.S. population has Type 2 diabetes and more than one in three people are pre-diabetic, putting them at high risk for developing the metabolic disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

A small study conducted by researchers in New Zealand found that walking 10 minutes after meals, and dinner in particular, proved to be more effective in controlling blood sugar levels for Type 2 diabetics than doing 30 minutes of exercise all at once during the day. The study, published Monday in Diabetologia, found that walking post-dinner brought post-meal blood sugar levels down by 22 percent.

Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disease that causes sugar to collect in the blood, according to the National Institutes of Health. Type 2 diabetes can be treated with diet, exercise and medication, including insulin. Type 1 diabetes, which more commonly occurs in childhood and young adulthood, is a result of a damaged pancreas that produces little to no insulin. People with Type 1 diabetes must self-administer insulin for the rest of their lives.

In a separate study, researchers from the U.K. combined results from 28 smaller studies and found that the more exercise people did, the lower their risk of Type 2 diabetes. The studies found that exercise helps insulin work better on cells and helps muscles use sugar more effectively.

The research, also published in Diabetologia, found that people who doubled their amount of exercise to about 300 minutes per week, instead of the recommended 150 minutes per week, reduced their risk of Type 2 diabetes by 36 percent.

Only 49 percent of Americans regularly exercise 30 minutes a day, five days a week, at a moderate level, according to 2015 CDC data.

ABC News' Chief Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser said that each diabetic responds differently to exercise so people should work with their doctors to make sure they are getting the benefits of exercise but not dropping their blood sugar levels too much.

"Every bit helps," Besser said of exercise. "You shouldn't be put off by the fact that, 'I don't have time.'"

Aside from exercise, the chief recommendation for helping lower people's risk for developing diabetes is weight loss.

According to Besser, even a five percent drop in weight for an overweight person can considerably reduce risk for diabetes. Doctors commonly recommend a regimen of both diet and exercise for Type 2 diabetics because losing weight helps lower the risk of diabetes and exercise itself seems to help with diabetes treatment.