Some people need more exercise to get the same benefits

October, 2015

Your risk of developing type 2 diabetes is about three times greater if someone in your immediate family (parent, sibling) has it. In a study looking at the effects of exercise on this group, it was found that men who have a family member with type 2 diabetes had to expend more energy than a control group, to achieve the same benefits.

The study involved 35 unfit, slightly overweight but completely healthy men aged 30-45 who, for seven months, exercised regularly at a fitness centre. Half of them had relatives with type 2 diabetes, and half did not. (It's perhaps worth noting that 50 men began the study, but didn't continue — these were roughly evenly divided between the two groups.) Three hour-long exercise sessions were available each week, and participants went to 39 sessions on average (the range was large though: 11-107).

Those with family members with diabetes tended to go to the gym more often (group average was 59% more sessions), and this may be due to their increased motivation.

It must be emphasized that both groups lost weight, reduced their waist size, increased their fitness, and showed similar improvements in gene expressions. So exercise was a good idea for both groups. However, statistical analysis indicates that the at-risk group had to do more exercise than the control group to achieve the same benefit. The findings support earlier findings that those with close relatives with type 2 diabetes show smaller physiological changes to exercise, compared to those without such familial links.

Ekman, C., Elgzyri, T., Ström, K., Almgren, P., Parikh, H., Nitert, M. D., … Hansson, O. (2015). Less pronounced response to exercise in healthy relatives to type 2 diabetic subjects compared with controls. Journal of Applied Physiology, 119(9), 953–960.

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