Reader Comments

Post a new comment on this article

Exercise and type 2 diabetes

Posted by CeliaMRoss on 06 Feb 2014 at 17:07 GMT

Grøntved et al (2014) conducted a fascinating study where they found “engagement in muscle-strengthening and conditioning activities… is associated with a lower risk of T2D.” (1) Grøntved et al (2014) also stated “engagement in both aerobic… and muscle-strengthening type activity is associated with a substantial reduction in the risk of T2D….” This reminded me of some other lines of research.

Our ancient ancestors burned considerably more calories than most people do today. (2, 3) This is significant because physical activity is important for proper gene expression but it raises the question as to the best activity routine or combination of exercises for healthy gene expression. (2) “Resistance”-type activity appears to have played a role in early human life. Modern life leads to less mechanical loading than humans experienced in the past as seen in analyses of bone samples. (4)

Fraga et al (2005) conducted important research indicating that the environment appears to influence the epigenome throughout the lifespan. (5) There is increasing interest in the role of physical activity influencing the epigenome. (6, 7) It should be noted that type 2 diabetes may be in part an epigenetic condition and thus the environment may influence the risk of type 2 diabetes through epigenetic mechanisms. (8) Thus the results of Grøntved et al (2014) might indicate that muscle strengthening / conditioning activity influences the epigenome so as to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

These results confirm that our bodies are geared for the need for both muscle strengthening / conditioning and aerobic activities. Further work is needed on how exercise shapes the epigenome.

About the author:


(1) Grøntved A, Pan A, Mekary RA, Stampfer M, Willett WC, Manson JE, Hu FB Muscle-Strengthening and Conditioning Activities and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A Prospective Study in Two Cohorts of US Women. PLoS Med. 2014 Jan;11(1):e1001587.
(2) Chakravarthy MV, Booth FW. Eating, exercise, and "thrifty" genotypes: connecting the dots toward an evolutionary understanding of modern chronic diseases. J Appl Physiol. 2004 Jan;96(1):3-10.
(3) Egger GJ, Vogels N, Westerterp KR. Estimating historical changes in physical activity levels. The Medical Journal of Australia. 2001 Dec 3-17;175(11-12):635-6.
(4) Ruff CB. Mechanical determinants of bone form: insights from skeletal remains. J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact. 2005 Jul-Sep;5(3):202-12.
(5) Fraga MF, Ballestar E, Paz MF et al. Epigenetic differences arise during the lifetime of monozygotic twins. Proceeding of the National Academy of Science U S A. 2005 Jul 26;102(30):10604-9.
(6) Ross CM. A possible epigenetic explanation for the relationship between physical activity and exceptional health among older women. Arch Intern Med. 2010 Jun 28;170(12):1087.
(7) Pareja-Galeano H, Sanchis-Gomar F, García-Giménez JL. Physical Exercise and Epigenetic Modulation: Elucidating Intricate Mechanisms. Sports Med. 2014 Jan 8. [Epub ahead of print]
(8) Pinney SE, Simmons RA. Epigenetic mechanisms in the development of type 2 diabetes. Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2010 Apr;21(4):223-9.

No competing interests declared.