(NaturalHealth365) Researchers have long warned that a trio of factors – obesity, poor dietary habits and a lack of physical activity – lies at the root of the national epidemic of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes, which currently affects over 30 million people in the United States, is the sixth leading cause of death in the nation.
Another 84 million Americans are prediabetic, with elevated blood sugar levels that – if left unaddressed – place them at serious risk for developing the disease.
Now, a new study is highlighting the risks of physical inactivity, demonstrating that even short periods of limited movement can cause diabetes symptoms in older, prediabetic individuals. The study also showed that the damaging effects did not resolve when normal activity was resumed – a truly alarming finding.
Lack of physical activity can alter insulin sensitivity and triggers diabetes
The study, published last month in Journals of Gerontology, explored the effects of a period of sudden inactivity on overweight, prediabetic older adults.
The participants, who ranged in age from 65 to 73, were told to restrict their daily steps to less than 1,000 per day (the equivalent of being hospitalized, or under bed rest) for two weeks.
This period of acute inactivity was followed by a two-week recovery period in which participants reverted to their normal activities.
Researchers found that the participants’ blood sugar became elevated, while insulin sensitivity decreased. In other words, they essentially “became diabetic.”
And, the volunteers did not fully recover – even two weeks after resuming normal activity.
Researchers said they had expected the first finding (the loss of glycemic control) but not the second.
“We were surprised to see that (the participants) didn’t revert back to their healthier state when they returned to normal activity,” noted study leader Chris McGlory, Ph.D., a research fellow in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University.
Dr. McGlory noted that older, prediabetic people who have been “off their feet” may need to utilize active rehabilitation, dietary changes and even medication to regain their metabolic health.
Editor’s note: We like to encourage the medical/scientific community to explore the possibility of natural remedies (only) – before resorting to medication – as a way of helping people to regain metabolic health.
Earlier research showed rapid onset of insulin resistance with inactivity
A 2015 study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise helped to lay the groundwork for the latest study. The participants – active, healthy young men – were asked to reduce their activity for five days, which involved dropping from an average of over 10,000 steps a day to under 5,000.
The results foreshadowed those of the latest study, with the reduced daily physical activity causing impaired blood sugar control.
Insulin sensitivity declined substantially, while after-meal blood sugar levels increased. Skeletal muscle mass and strength decreased, as well.
In other words, sharply cutting customary activity levels – even for a mere five days – had a significant and rapid negative effect on blood sugar control.
Incidentally, it is not only diabetes that can gain a toehold through lack of exercise. Studies have shown that inactivity is associated with increased risk of a variety of life-threatening diseases.
Being sedentary may be more deadly than simply being overweight
Are you ready for a shocking statistic? According to the World Health Organization, lack of exercise is the fourth leading cause of premature death – right up there at the top of the list with proven killers such as high blood pressure and smoking.
In fact, studies have shown that lack of exercise constitutes more of a threat to life and health than being overweight or obese.
The answer, of course, is to get moving.
Exercise has been shown to add up to seven years to lifespan. And, researchers have found that getting sufficient exercise can reduce the risk of a (potentially fatal) heart attack by a robust 30 percent.
One of the major benefits of exercise is that it protects against heart disease by improving risk factors such as high blood pressure, excess fats in the blood and inflammation.
Special note: A study published in JAMA Cardiology showed that a single bout of vigorous exercise can offer clinically significant benefits and immediate protection against heart disease, persisting for up to a day afterwards.
Exercise helps combat neurodegenerative conditions
Exercise may even be able to protect against the scourge of Alzheimer’s disease – which currently affects 5.5 million Americans – as well help ward off other forms of dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
Physical activity increases levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF. This essential signaling protein helps to modulate brain plasticity – the all-important capacity of the brain to modify its connections and adapt to new experiences (in other words, to learn).
And, exercise may literally make your brain bigger.
Not only does it mitigate “brain shrinkage” – the loss of brain volume due to age – but one study showed that progressive muscle training in elderly humans specifically increased the size of the hippocampus, the area associated with learning and memory.
Finally, exercise can pay off years down the road.
In a recent review published in Alzheimer’s and Dementia, the authors reported that middle-aged participants who engaged in exercise were less likely to develop dementia almost three decades later.
Life-prolonging and disease-preventing benefits of exercise accrue rapidly
While inactivity can cause physical health to begin to “go downhill” fairly quickly, the bright side is that the benefits of physical activity also manifest themselves almost immediately.
For example, a single half-hour bout of exercising can offer immediate brain health benefits – including improved cognition, better executive function, sharper memory, and enhanced mood.
Cancer, autoimmune disease, depression, osteoporosis – it’s hard to think of a disease or a condition that exercise doesn’t help to prevent – or can help to alleviate.
Health tip: If you have been inactive for some time, or if you have a medical condition, consult your integrative doctor before starting your exercise routine. Because it’s very easy to overdo it – especially at the beginning of a new habit like, exercise.
No doubt, the latest study – which demonstrates that acute physical inactivity can cause prediabetes to veer off into full-blown type 2 diabetes – showcases the importance of staying active. And, it’s not necessary to train for a triathlon or become an Olympic athlete.
Don’t forget, just 20 minutes of moderate exercise – three to seven times a week – can pay off with a jackpot of health dividends. (get started today!)
Sources for this article include:
Cancer & Heart Disease
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