Exercise Linked to Lower Mortality Risk for Type 1 Diabetes Patients

High levels of weekly exercise slashed premature mortality risk in half for patients with type 1 diabetes.

Patients with type 1 diabetes (T1D) who participate in physical activity are significantly less likely to die at a younger age compared with sedentary patients, according to a study published by Diabetes Care and reported by Reuters.

Exercise is known to improve outcomes in patients with type 2 diabetes, but it has not been well studied among patients with T1D. Patients with diabetes have a high risk of heart disease and kidney disease, which can lead to premature death.

“It matters because doctors have always prescribed physical activity for their patients with (type 1) diabetes without strong evidence,” lead author Dr Heidi Tikkanen-Dolenc told Reuters.

Included in the study were 2639 patients with T1D whose exercise levels were tracked for an average of 11 years. A majority of the patients enrolled were overweight.

The authors inquired about how often patients exercised and what activities they did to determine exercise levels and intensity, called the metabolic equivalent of task (MET) hours per week.

The authors discovered that the least active group had less than 10 MET hours per week and the most active had more than 40 hours of exercise per week, according to the study, as reported by Reuters.

These activity levels corresponded with mortality rates, with the least active group’s mortality rate at 14.4% and the high activity group at 4.8%, according to the study.

“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,” Dr Tikkanen-Dolenc told Reuters.

Even adjusting for other factors, the authors found that individuals who participated in less than 10 MET hours of activity per week were twice as likely to die from any cause compared with those who had more than 40 MET hours per week, Reuters reported.

Notably, these results were similar among patients with or without kidney disease, according to the study.

The authors caution that they only examined physical activity levels once, so patients may have changed their habits over time, which could influence mortality rate.

These findings suggest that exercise may benefit patients with T1D and reduce their risk of premature death.

“While the exact amount of exercise needed to lower the risk of cardiovascular events is unknown, doing any is better than remaining sedentary,” said Sheri Colberg, a professor of exercise science at Old Dominion University who was not involved in the study, told Reuters. “As in people without diabetes, intense activity likely is even more cardioprotective than moderate or light activity. But since the exercise is this study was self-reported and only collected at the start of the study, it is hard to draw definitive conclusions about how much exercise is needed and how intense it should be to reduce mortality risk.”