(HealthDay News) – In women with a history of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), physical activity may reduce the risk of progression to type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), according to research published online May 19 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Wei Bao, MD, PhD, of the National Institutes of Health in Rockville, MD, and colleagues conducted a prospective cohort study with follow-up from 1991–2007 of 4,554 women with a history of GDM. The authors sought to assess the role of physical activity in progression to T2DM.

The researchers found that each 5-metabolic equivalent hours per week (MET-h/wk) increment of total physical activity (the equivalent of 100 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity) was associated with a 9% lower risk of T2DM (adjusted relative risk [RR], 0.91; 95% CI, 0.88–0.94). Women who increased their total physical activity levels by 7.5 MET-h/wk or more (the equivalent of 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity), compared with those who maintained the same level of total physical activity, had a 47% lower risk of T2DM (RR, 0.53; 95% CI, 0.38 to 0.75). Both of these associations remained significant after additional adjustment for body mass index.

“[This study] sends a hopeful message to women with GDM, suggesting that it is possible to reduce diabetes risk through the modifiable lifestyle behavior,” write the authors of an accompanying editorial.

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