Exercise at Work May Protect Diabetic Hearts
Physical Activity at Work or During Commute Helps Prevent Heart-Related Deaths
July 26, 2004 -- People with diabetes don't have to hit the gym
to reap the life-saving benefits of exercise. A new Finnish study shows that
moderate physical activity at work or during the commute can help prevent
heart-related deaths among people with type 2 diabetes.
Researchers say it's the first major study to show that the
heart-healthy effects of exercise and physical activity for people with
diabetes aren't limited to leisure time activities.
The study shows that people with type 2 diabetes who did a lot
of walking and lifting at work, such as manual laborers, had 40% lower risk of
heart-related death, and those who were moderately physical at work, including
store clerks, had a 9% lower risk.
"People with diabetes need to look for ways to build
activity into their work, their commute to and from work, and also their
leisure time," says researcher Jaakko Tuomilehto, MD, of the National
Public Health Institute in Helsinki, Finland, in a news release. "Physical
activity during commuting is one of the easiest, least time-consuming ways to
"We know that type 2 diabetes can be prevented or at least
postponed by physical activity and a healthy diet, but too often people think
only of leisure-time physical training or other aerobic activities," says
Although the study showed that daily walking or riding a bike
to and from work was associated with a lower risk of heart-related death, this
benefit was no longer significant after taking leisure time and occupational
physical activity into account.
Activity at Work Eases Diabetes Risks
In the study, published in the July 27 issue of Circulation:
Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers reviewed data on
3,316 people between the ages of 25 and 74 with type 2 diabetes who
participated in national surveys in Finland from 1972 to 1997.
Researchers divided physical activity at work into three
- Light -- Easy physical work and sitting, such as office work.
- Moderate -- Walking and standing, such as store clerk work.
- Active -- Walking and lifting of heavy objects, such as manual
During about 18 years of follow-up, 1,410 of the survey
participants died and 64% of these deaths were from heart-related causes. After
adjusting for other risk factors, researchers also found people with type 2
diabetes who were highly active in their leisure time had a 30% lower risk of
heart-related death, and those who were moderately active had a 15% lower risk
compared with the most sedentary group.
"If this finding represents a causal relation, increasing
exercise could be highly important to the improvement of health and the
lengthening of life among working-aged patients," says researcher Gand Hu,
MD, in the release. "Since the increase in computerization and
mechanization has resulted in ever-increasing numbers of people being sedentary
for most of their working time, adding short [durations of] exercise during
working breaks, or adding walking activity during work time is
recommended. We believe that it would be cost-efficient for