Protect Yourself From Type 2 Diabetes
How do you protect yourself from type 2 diabetes and all of its complications? The clear-cut answer is moving more throughout the day. Obesity is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, but even if someone has a higher body weight than they would like, daily physical activity is a critical factor for reducing this risk, regardless of other factors.
Most food contains sugar (glucose). In someone without type 2 diabetes, glucose levels will increase in the blood stream after a meal and then gradually decrease as time passes. In someone with type 2 diabetes, the body does not control blood glucose well. Glucose levels swing up much higher and then largely stay elevated throughout the day. Over time, glucose becomes chronically high all of the time. That’s a problem because the body’s cells become “stressed out” when they are exposed to chronically high glucose. This stress can lead to multiple health conditions that reduce quality of life and shorten lifespan (cardiovascular and kidney disease, eye problems, neurological conditions, etc.).
How Does Moving Help?
So how does moving help? Muscle is an important disposal site for glucose after a meal. However, muscle only needs glucose if the muscle has been working and using energy. It is like a car engine: the engine only needs gas if it has been running. Likewise, muscle does not take up and use glucose if muscle is not being used (chronic sitting, low physical activity). If someone is chronically inactive then glucose increases much more dramatically after each meal because it is not being taken up by muscle and other tissues in the body.
Our research has shown that when people are inactive (less than 5,000 steps per day) for just three days, their bodies have bigger glucose surges after each meal. In contrast, we have shown that a small increase in physical activity for people with type 2 diabetes—going from 4,000 steps per day to over 10,000– led to a dramatic reduction in just a few days in how much glucose surged after meals. These studies, and others, show that what you do on a daily basis really impacts your glucose levels, and thus your long-term risk for diabetes. What’s this mean? Sit less, move more (more than 7,500 steps a day) and you will lower your risk for type 2 diabetes.
Guest blog post by Dr. John Thyfault, Associate Professor, University of Kansas Medical Center