A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine finds that increased physical activity can lower the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus progressing to type 2 diabetes mellitus.
A common complication of pregnancy, gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is defined as glucose intolerance that occurs or is first recognized during pregnancy. About one third of women of reproductive age with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) have a history of GDM.
The authors examined the role of physical activity, television watching and other sedentary activity, along with changes in these behaviors, in the progression to T2DM. The study included 4,554 women from the Nurses’ Health Study II who had a history of GDM and were followed from 1991 to 2007.
The authors documented 635 cases of T2DM. Each increase in an increment of 5-metabolic equivalent hours per week (MET-h/wk), which is equal to about 100 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity or 50 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity activity, was associated with a 9 percent lower risk of T2DM. Women who increased their total physical activity levels by the federal government recommendation of 7.5 MET-h/wk or more (equivalent to 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity activity) had a 47 percent lower risk of T2DM. While an increase in physical activity was associated with a lower risk for T2DM, an increase in the amount of time spent watching TV was associated with a greater risk of T2DM.
“These findings suggest a hopeful message to women with a history of GDM, although they are at exceptionally high risk for T2DM, promoting an active lifestyle may lower the risk.”