Objective: To systematically evaluate the evidence for an association between physical activity of moderate intensity and risk of type 2 diabetes.
Research design and methods: We searched EMBASE and Medline through March 2006 and examined reference lists of retrieved articles. We excluded studies that did not assess physical activity of moderate intensity independent of activities of vigorous intensity (more than six times the resting metabolic rate). Information on study design, participant characteristics, assessment of physical activity, and outcomes and estimates of associations were extracted independently by two investigators. We calculated summary relative risks (RRs) using a random-effects model for the highest versus the lowest reported duration of activities.
Results: We identified 10 prospective cohort studies of physical activity of moderate intensity and type 2 diabetes, including a total of 301,221 participants and 9,367 incident cases. Five of these studies specifically investigated the role of walking. The summary RR of type 2 diabetes was 0.69 (95% CI 0.58-0.83) for regular participation in physical activity of moderate intensity as compared with being sedentary. Similarly, the RR was 0.70 (0.58-0.84) for regular walking (typically > or = 2.5 h/week brisk walking) as compared with almost no walking. The associations remained significant after adjustment for BMI. Similar associations were observed in men and women and in the U.S. and Europe.
Conclusions: These findings indicate that adherence to recommendations to participate in physical activities of moderate intensity such as brisk walking can substantially reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.