Lack of physical exercise during COVID-19 confinement may lead to a rise in mortality

January 19, 2021

Social distancing and working from home help prevent transmission of the novel coronavirus but can be conducive to unhealthy behavior such as bingeing on fast food or spending more time in a chair or on a couch staring at a screen, and generally moving about less during the day. Scientists believe the reduction in physical activity experienced during the first few months of the pandemic could lead to an annual increase of more than 11.1 million in new cases of type 2 diabetes and result in more than 1.7 million deaths.

The estimates are presented by researchers at São Paulo State University (UNESP), Brazil, in a review article published in Frontiers in Endocrinology. The authors stress that there is an "urgent need" to recommend physical activity during the pandemic.

"Recent studies have shown that people with diabetes face a higher risk of developing the severe form of COVID-19, and of dying if the condition is not properly controlled. Others have shown that social distancing and confinement have considerably reduced levels of physical activity, increased sedentary behavior and lowered the quality of people's nutrition. Our article serves as a warning about the harmful consequences of these trends," said Emmanuel Gomes Ciolac, a professor at UNESP's Department of Physical Education in Bauru, and principal investigator for the study.

The first author of the article is Isabela Roque Marçal, who is studying for a master's degree at UNESP. She was previously a research intern at the University of Leuven, Belgium, with a scholarship from FAPESP.

Among other data sources, the review covers the findings of an international online survey conducted by a group of 35 research institutions on several continents. According to the results, which are preliminary in that they refer to the first 1,000 volunteers to complete the questionnaire, the level of physical activity decreased 35% in the initial months of confinement, and this was accompanied by a 28.6% increase in sedentary behavior, such as sitting or lying for long periods, and unhealthy eating. Previous studies had already shown that a lack of physical activity helped cause some 33 million cases of type 2 diabetes in 2019 and 5.3 million deaths in 2018.

Based on data for the period before the pandemic, the researchers estimated that the current prevalence of physical inactivity (not getting the minimum amount of exercise recommended by health authorities) was 57.3% among over-forties generally and 57.7% among people at risk for diabetes, so that a lack of exercise can be considered responsible for 9.6% of diabetes cases (11.1 million) and 12.5% of all-cause deaths worldwide (1.7 million) if this prevalence persists for a long time.

Exercising at home

"It's important to be aware of the difference between insufficient levels of physical activity and sedentary behavior," Ciolac said. "An insufficiently active person is an individual who doesn't get the minimum amount of exercise recommended by the World Health Organization." The WHO recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise per week for adults aged 18-64.

Sedentary behavior, he continued, is associated with the time spent sitting, reclining or lying down. Research shows that watching television or working at a computer for long hours can be bad for the health of even physically active people. Those who are required to use a computer all day for their work should get up every 30 minutes or so to stretch their legs and get whatever light exercise is possible.

Confinement should not prevent people from performing more intense physical activity. The WHO's recommendations, for example, include taking online exercise classes, many of which are free of charge, playing with children, doing household chores such as cleaning and gardening, going up and down stairs, even walking on the spot.

The UNESP group also recommend exercises using body weight to improve muscle tone, such as situps, pushups, squatting, and standing up from a chair, as well as aerobic exercises that can safely be performed near the home, such as walking, jogging and cycling. Meals should be as healthy as possible, with plenty of vegetables and fruit, avoiding processed foods.
-end-
About São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP)

The São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) is a public institution with the mission of supporting scientific research in all fields of knowledge by awarding scholarships, fellowships and grants to investigators linked with higher education and research institutions in the State of São Paulo, Brazil. FAPESP is aware that the very best research can only be done by working with the best researchers internationally. Therefore, it has established partnerships with funding agencies, higher education, private companies, and research organizations in other countries known for the quality of their research and has been encouraging scientists funded by its grants to further develop their international collaboration. You can learn more about FAPESP at http://www.fapesp.br/en and visit FAPESP news agency at http://www.agencia.fapesp.br/en to keep updated with the latest scientific breakthroughs FAPESP helps achieve through its many programs, awards and research centers. You may also subscribe to FAPESP news agency at http://agencia.fapesp.br/subscribe.

Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo

Related Diabetes Articles from Brightsurf:

New diabetes medication reduced heart event risk in those with diabetes and kidney disease
Sotagliflozin - a type of medication known as an SGLT2 inhibitor primarily prescribed for Type 2 diabetes - reduces the risk of adverse cardiovascular events for patients with diabetes and kidney disease.

Diabetes drug boosts survival in patients with type 2 diabetes and COVID-19 pneumonia
Sitagliptin, a drug to lower blood sugar in type 2 diabetes, also improves survival in diabetic patients hospitalized with COVID-19, suggests a multicenter observational study in Italy.

Making sense of diabetes
Throughout her 38-year nursing career, Laurel Despins has progressed from a bedside nurse to a clinical nurse specialist and has worked in medical, surgical and cardiac intensive care units.

Helping teens with type 1 diabetes improve diabetes control with MyDiaText
Adolescence is a difficult period of development, made more complex for those with Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM).

Diabetes-in-a-dish model uncovers new insights into the cause of type 2 diabetes
Researchers have developed a novel 'disease-in-a-dish' model to study the basic molecular factors that lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, uncovering the potential existence of major signaling defects both inside and outside of the classical insulin signaling cascade, and providing new perspectives on the mechanisms behind insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes and possibly opportunities for the development of novel therapeutics for the disease.

Tele-diabetes to manage new-onset diabetes during COVID-19 pandemic
Two new case studies highlight the use of tele-diabetes to manage new-onset type 1 diabetes in an adult and an infant during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Genetic profile may predict type 2 diabetes risk among women with gestational diabetes
Women who go on to develop type 2 diabetes after having gestational, or pregnancy-related, diabetes are more likely to have particular genetic profiles, suggests an analysis by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and other institutions.

Maternal gestational diabetes linked to diabetes in children
Children and youth of mothers who had gestational diabetes during pregnancy are at increased risk of diabetes themselves, according to new research published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Two diabetes medications don't slow progression of type 2 diabetes in youth
In youth with impaired glucose tolerance or recent-onset type 2 diabetes, neither initial treatment with long-acting insulin followed by the drug metformin, nor metformin alone preserved the body's ability to make insulin, according to results published online June 25 in Diabetes Care.

People with diabetes visit the dentist less frequently despite link between diabetes, oral health
Adults with diabetes are less likely to visit the dentist than people with prediabetes or without diabetes, finds a new study led by researchers at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and East Carolina University's Brody School of Medicine.

Read More: Diabetes News and Diabetes Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.