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Staying in Shape Staves Off Diabetes in Women

from Reuters Health

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Being physically fit may help prevent the development of diabetes in healthy women, according to findings presented this week at the American Public Health Association's 131st Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

Jason M. Wallace, and others from The Cooper Institute in Dallas, examined the association between fitness and type 2 diabetes in 4,984 women participating in the Aerobic Center Longitudinal Study (ACLS).

"This study has been going on for more than 30 years," Wallace told Reuters Health. "We have already looked at men, fitness, and risk of developing diabetes and needed to look at it in women."

Participating women were free of diabetes when the study began. Based on how long they could walk on a treadmill, the women were classified as being low fit, moderately fit, or high fit.

Eighty-two women developed diabetes during follow-up. The rate of diabetes was 3.2 percent in the low-fit group, 2.6 percent in the moderately fit group, and less than 1 percent in the high-fit group.

After considering other factors, such as age, weight, and blood sugar levels, "women who were in the highest fitness group were at lower risk for developing diabetes relative to women in a lower fitness category," Wallace said. For example, high-fit women were 70 percent less likely to develop diabetes than low-fit women.

"For every additional minute on the treadmill, there was a 14-percent reduction in the risk of developing diabetes," the investigators report.

"The clinical implications are obvious," Wallace said. "Physicians need to be prescribing physical activity to their female patients to help prevent the development of diabetes."

"There has been very little (research) done on fitness and the development of diabetes in women," he added. "These results do support what we have found in men, that higher fitness levels protect against the development of diabetes."

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