Women who have had gestational diabetes can reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes following pregnancy by becoming more physically active, a new study had found.
The finding, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, comes from a team of researchers from the National Institute of Health in the US who analysed data on over 4500 women with a history of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), a common complication of pregnancy that can progress into full blown type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM).
Participants were followed from 1991 to 2007, and during this time 635 of the women went on to develop T2DM.
After examining information on both physical and sedentary activity, the team found that for every increase in activity of 5-metabolic equivalent hours per week (MET-h/wk), the risk of progression to type 2 diabetes was roughly 9% lower. 5MET-h/wk is equivalent to around 100 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity or 50 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity, they explained.
For women who increased their total physical activity levels by at least 7.5MET-h/wk (150 minutes per week of moderate activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise), the risk of type 2 diabetes was slashed by almost half (47% lower).
Furthermore, they also showed an association between an increase in the amount of time spent watching TV (sedentary lifestyle) with a higher T2DM risk.
“Our results from a large prospective study indicate that increasing physical activity may help lower the risk of progression from GDM to T2DM,” the researchers said. “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.”
While the results are promising, limitations of the long- term study include the fact that most of the participants were white American women, meaning it may not be possible to generalise the results to other ethnic groups.
Additionally, it is possible the participants may have had better access to health care or been more health conscious than the general population as they were all nurses.

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