Can Just 10 Minutes of Exercise a Week Prevent Diabetes?

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Filed Under: Diabetes, Blood Sugar
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Can Just 10 Minutes of Exercise a Week Prevent Diabetes?

We’ve long known exercise can help to prevent diabetes—but a study in the just the past few years shows that even less than 10 minutes a week may be enough to make a difference.

Researchers studying type 2 diabetes at Scotland's Heriot-Watt University assigned 16 subjects in their twenties to very short exercise sessions, lasting just 30 seconds each. In addition to a set of four to six sprints, subjects drank a 75 gram glucose solution to determine how long blood sugar and insulin levels remained elevated, and the impact of intense exercise on glucose control.

The result: After only two weeks, blood sugar levels decreased 12 percent, and the duration of elevated blood sugar decreased 37 percent!

While this study focused on short spurts of exercise, getting regular exercise of just 30 minutes four times a week can make a huge difference—whether you’re trying to prevent or treat diabetes.

One reason is that exercise acts like insulin, as the exercising muscles take up glucose. Plus, the exercise itself increases your insulin sensitivity.

Exercise also helps you lose weight, which is key to managing diabetes and blood sugar control. In a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study, regular exercise (just 30 minutes, five days a week) and a low-fat diet resulted in an average sustained weight loss of 10-15 pounds. This alone can prevent or reverse diabetes.

What type of exercise should you do? Walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, or dancing all work. In fact, what you do doesn't matter as long as you actually do it. Thirty minute exercise sessions work best, but this new research shows that even a few sprints around the block, a quick bike ride, or a run up a hill or set of stairs, can deliver lasting health benefits too.

Now it’s your turn: What’s your favorite way to exercise?

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