Physical Activity of Moderate-Intensity Reduces Risk of Diabetes

Reviewed by Dr. Victor Marchione, MD.
Written by Mat Lecompte
Published on

Physical Activity of Moderate-In...

The risk of diabetes may be avoided with daily physical activity, according to a study published in Endocrine Connections. Researchers suggest that even a lower intensity of physical activity could help prevent metabolic diseases such as diabetes.

Not getting enough physical activity could lead to metabolic complications such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. It is the second most preventable cause of premature death after smoking.

Exercise May Affect Hormone

Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) is an appetite-inhibiting hormone that lowers blood sugar levels and stimulates insulin secretion. Previous studies have suggested that exercise may affect GLP-1 secretion, but most have been inconclusive. The effects of daily lower intensity exercise have remained uncertain.

However, this new study shows how moderate-intensity activity is associated with beneficial levels of the GLP-1 hormone which may lower the risk of diabetes. They also suggest that even a lower intensity of daily habitual physical activity could help to prevent metabolic diseases such as diabetes.

For the study, Ph.D. student Charlotte Janus and Professor Signe Torekov from the University of Copenhagen, together with researchers from Steno Diabetes Center, investigated the association between normal, daily, physical activity, and GLP-1 secretion.

They looked at an overweight population of 703 men and 623 women. The participants’ heart rates were monitored on a daily monitor to determine their activity intensity, ranging from sedentary to vigorous. GLP-1 levels were measured before and after drinking glucose to test how physical activity could affect the secretion of the hormone.

Researchers found that moderate-intensity exercise for just 30 minutes a day increased GLP-1 levels in men, but not in women who were on average active for only 20 minutes a day.

Ph.D. student Janus commented, “Our study is encouraging as the results suggest that daily activity, even at a relatively low intensity and for a short amount of time such as brisk walking, gardening and playing with grandchildren, could improve appetite and blood glucose regulation.”

Professor Torekov added, “Greater GLP-1 hormone levels decrease both hunger sensation and blood sugar and may therefore decrease the risk of both obesity and type 2 diabetes.”

“The association between physical activity and GLP-1 secretion may only be seen in men due to physiological differences and generally lower activity levels for women in this study. It may also indicate that a certain minimum level of physical activity is required for there the positive effect on GLP-1 levels, however, more studies are required to confirm this.”

The findings of the study suggest that even low-intensity activity could help to reduce the risk of diabetes. People should focus on increasing daily activity to at least 30 minutes a day, which could include walking, swimming, or yoga. Many people find that low-intensity activity is much more achievable than high-intensity exercise, which can be time consuming or too physically demanding.

“If you don’t have the time or ability to do high-intensity exercise, increasing your daily physical activity level may still affect GLP-1 production and have positive impacts on your health,” Ph.D. student Janus recommends.


On any matter relating to your health or well-being, please check with an appropriate health professional. No statement herein is to be construed as a diagnosis, treatment, preventative, or cure for any disease, disorder or abnormal physical state. The statements herein have not been evaluated by the Foods and Drugs Administration or Health Canada. Dr. Marchione and the doctors on the Bel Marra Health Editorial Team are compensated by Bel Marra Health for their work in creating content, consulting along with formulating and endorsing products.