A small study suggests that sedentary adults who get a few hours of exercise each week and don't lose weight may still cut their risk of developing a pre-diabetic condition called insulin resistance syndrome.
In insulin resistance syndrome, a person loses his or her ability to use this key blood-sugar-regulating hormone (insulin) effectively. More and more people (children as well as adults) are developing the condition as the population eats more and exercises less. Left untreated, the syndrome can develop into type 2 diabetes and increase the risk of heart disease.
While previous studies have touted exercise's potential to reduce the severity of illness in people already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or heart disease, little evidence exists on whether or not physical activity reduces the risk of the syndrome that precedes these illnesses.
To investigate, scientists from the University of Florida in Gainesville followed 18 sedentary but otherwise healthy men and women for six months after putting them on an individually tailored exercise regime of walking for 30 minutes between three and seven days a week. All of the participants were told not to change their diet or alter their body weight during the study.
After six months, Duncan's team evaluated insulin sensitivity and levels of blood fats like cholesterol and compared the findings to measurements taken before the start of the study. Exercise, without weight loss, was found to increase insulin sensitivity.
Even modest amounts of exercise in the absence of weight or abdominal fat loss improves markers of glucose and fat metabolism in previously sedentary, middle-aged adults, a group particularly at risk for type 2 diabetes.
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