Exercise Could Delay Progression of Type 1 Diabetes When First Diagnosed


Source: University of Birmingham

Summary: New finding suggests that exercise during the first few months of diagnosis of type 1 diabetes could delay the progression of the condition.


Type 1 diabetes is a serious, lifelong condition where the body can’t make insulin. Without careful treatment, this can cause blood glucose levels to be too high and increase the risk of life-changing complications, such as sight loss and kidney disease. Currently, 4.6 million people in the UK have diabetes, and around 10% of these have type 1 diabetes. It is believed that around 60% of adults newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes experience a ‘honeymoon‘ period. This means that some beta cells in their pancreas are still working and their body is still sensitive to insulin. The findings of a study led by the University of Birmingham suggests that exercise during the first few months of diagnosis of type 1 diabetes could delay the progression of the condition. Study participants who continued an active exercise regime after type 1 diagnosis extended their partial remission, also known as the ‘honeymoon‘ period, by five-fold compared to those who didn’t exercise. The study findings were published in the journal Diabetic Medicine.

Physical exercise

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

This research suggests that exercise during the first few months of diagnosis may in the long term improve blood glucose levels, reduce hypoglycemic attacks and the risk of long-term complications, such as retinopathy and neuropathy. The researchers studied 17 people from three clinics in the UK, who had all been recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and who were doing significant levels of exercise. They were matched with people who had also being recently diagnosed and were the same age, sex and weight, but not doing any exercise. The study was the first of its kind to examine the effects of physical exercise on the honeymoon period in people recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Parth Narendran said, “We propose that exercise prolongs honeymoon through a combination of improving how the body responds to insulin, and also preserving the function of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.”


More Information:  M. R. Chetan et al, “The Type 1 diabetes ‘honeymoon’ period is five times longer in men who exercise: a case-control study”, Diabetic Medicine (2018). DOI: 10.1111/dme.13802 


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