People with type 1 diabetes who are more active have a lower risk of premature death compared to those who do not exercise regularly, researchers have said.
Inactive participants were 37 per cent more likely to die prematurely than those who were more active, but the study authors could not identify why exercise helped to boost life expectancy. One theory is that being active helps control body weight and therefore reduces the risk of developing other health complications, such as kidney and heart disease.
The study was carried out in Helsinki and looked at the exercise patterns of 2,639 people with type 1 diabetes, 310 of whom had diabetic kidney disease (DKD). The researchers focused on the frequency, intensity and duration of the person’s physical activity levels and then followed them up 11 years later.
A total of 270 people died during the course of the research. In the least active group, the death rate was 14.4 per cent, compared with only 4.8 per cent in the group who performed more exercise. Physical activity appeared to benefit patients both with and without kidney disease.
There has been a lot of research showing a strong link between exercise and type 2 diabetes, but not much evidence supporting how being active could also benefit those with type 1 diabetes, which is why the study team carried this work out.
Lead study author Dr Heidi Tikkanen-Dolenc of the University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital, said: “Doctors have always prescribed physical activity for their patients with type 1 diabetes without strong evidence. Now we can say that in patients with type 1 diabetes, physical activity not only reduces the risk of diabetic nephropathy and cardiovascular disease events but also premature mortality.”
In the UK people are encouraged to exercise regularly to maintain good overall health. The NHS recommends participating in at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense exercise a week.
The findings appear online in the journal Diabetes Care.

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