How much physical activity do adults with type 2 diabetes need to feel more positive?

In #ExerciseRightWeek, we highlight a recent paper from the ACBRD, which explores the association between physical activity and depressive symptoms in adults with type 2 diabetes, and how it differs by body weight

by Ralph Geerling


Depressive symptoms are commonly reported by people with type 2 diabetes. They are associated with less self-care and higher blood glucose levels. Understanding the factors associated with depressive symptoms can inform healthcare practice and interventions to better support people with type 2 diabetes. Physical activity has been shown to reduce depressive symptoms, and help to regulate weight and blood glucose levels.

Prof Jane Speight and colleagues investigated the relationship between different levels of physical activity and depressive symptoms among adults with type 2 diabetes whose body mass index (BMI) was classified in the healthy, overweight or obese range. Study findings are published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.

This study included 705 Australian adults with type 2 diabetes who took part in the first Diabetes MILES – Australia survey. One quarter of participants (28%) reported at least moderate depressive symptoms, and most had a BMI in the obese range (68%) and reported at least moderate levels of physical activity (72%).

Overall, the findings showed that level of physical activity was significantly associated with depressive symptoms. Compared to low levels of physical activity, moderate and high levels of physical activity were associated with lower depressive symptoms

The study also revealed that the association between physical activity and depressive symptoms differs between BMI classifications. For people with healthy or overweight BMI, only high amounts of physical activity were significantly associated with fewer depressive symptoms. However, for those with an obese BMI classification, both moderate and high levels of physical activity were significantly associated with fewer depressive symptoms. This suggests that people with type 2 diabetes and a BMI in the obese range may need lower levels of physical activity to achieve meaningful reductions in depressive symptoms, as well as assist in their diabetes management. However, further research is needed to confirm this hypothesis.

A moderate level of physical activity equates to 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on most days across all areas of a person’s life (e.g. walking from place to place, household/garden chores and leisure activities). More information about diabetes and physical activity is available here.

Craike MJ, Mosely K, Browne JL, Pouwer F, Speight J. Associations between physical activity and depressive symptoms by weight status among adults with type 2 diabetes: Results from Diabetes MILES-Australia. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 2017; 14(3): 195-202.