Woman Walking on TreadmillWomen who develop gestational diabetes have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. In fact, about 1/3 of women who develop diabetes during pregnancy will go on to develop the condition again–but you may be able to cut your risk.

Before we dive in to all the nitty gritty, let’s take a look at how gestational diabetes and type 2 diabetes are different. 

  • Gestational diabetes: Is thought to be caused by the body’s response to hormones produced by the placenta during pregnancy that make it difficult for the cells of the body to use insulin. A hormone that controls blood sugar levels. When your body can’t absorb insulin, blood sugar levels get too high and this equals diabetes. Gestational diabetes goes away after delivery of the baby, but the risk for developing type 2 diabetes remains.
  • Type 2 diabetes: Also called non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus or adult-onset diabetes by some people is one of the most common forms of diabetes today. Type 2 works in much the same way as gestational diabetes because the body is usually still producing insulin, but the cells are not using it correctly. Type 2 is usually controlled with a healthy diet, exercise and weight loss. Adults who do not manage their type 2 diabetes are at risk for a variety of complications from high blood sugar including damage to the kidneys, eyes, and nerves and a higher risk for heart disease and heart attacks–among other things.

So that’s a lot.

But what’s promising is that researchers have found that 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week (such as fast-paced walking or swimming) lowered their risk factor for type 2 diabetes by 47%.

Exercise.  The same treatment that is prescribed for newly diagnosed diabetes could be the key to prevention for those with a higher risk. That’s not really surprising when you consider the many benefits of physical activity.

So what’s moderate exercise?

I knew you would ask that.

And honestly, it’s less about the exercise itself and about its intensity or how hard it makes you work. Health officials believe that walking is the best example of moderate physical activity and that taking 100 steps per minute will get you to just the right level. It’s faster than a stroll and slower than a race-walk if that makes any sense. It’s a completely doable pace. You should be able to talk a little and walk a little without running out of breath. If you find it hard to say a few words while you are walking, slow down until you adjust to the pace.

So get out there and walk your way to a lower risk for diabetes.