Physical Activity can Prevent and Treat Type 2 Diabetes

Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine Statement.

Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. According to the World Health organisation (WHO) physical inactivity is estimated to be the main cause for approximately 27% of diabetes[i]. Analysis by the UK Government’s Foresight programme forecasts that by 2050 over half the UK adult population could be obese, the main modifiable risk for type 2 diabetes.[ii]

The Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine (FSEM) welcomes the UK Government’s plan for a National Diabetes Prevention Programme[iii] alongside the Scottish Government’s Diabetes Improvement Plan[iv]. As part of both plans, the FSEM would like to see physical activity become a major priority, alongside dietary changes and weight loss, when it comes to the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes within the NHS.

There is compelling evidence that regular physical activity is effective in the primary prevention of chronic disease with a risk reduction of up to 50% for type 2 diabetes[v]. The effects of exercise therapy on those with diabetes is a 32% reduction in diabetes related complications and a 42% reduction in mortality[vi]. Alongside the positive health benefits of exercise, there is also high-quality evidence to suggest that health care costs can be saved when physical inactivity is reduced.[vii]

Dr Roderick Jaques, President of the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine, comments: “The evidence for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes with exercise and physical activity speaks for itself. If we are to prevent a sharp increase in avoidable health conditions like type 2 diabetes, we need to look at how we can increase physical activity levels alongside diet and lifestyle.

“The key issue is getting more people to take regular exercise, either as a preventative measure or as part of a treatment for existing diabetes. This behavioural change requires an investment of time and expertise within the NHS to provide advice, training, encouragement and long term monitoring.”



[i] WHO – Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health.

[iv] The Scottish Government’s Diabetes Improvement Plan

[v] CMO report 2005 At least 5 a week: Evidence on the impact of physical activity and its relationship to health.

[vi] Sport and Exercise Medicine A Fresh Approach, Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine and NHS North West 2011.

[vi] 2014 Consensus Statement from the first Economics of Physical Inactivity Consensus (EPIC) Conference (Vancouver).

Notes to Editors:

  • The Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine was launched in 2006 and is an intercollegiate faculty of the Royal College of Physicians of London and the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.
  • The Faculty represents over 560 Sport and Exercise Medicine Doctors, not including medical students. There are around 102 Sport and Exercise Medicine Consultants on the GMC specialist register.
  • The FSEM not only sets standards in SEM practice but oversees research, training, curriculum and assessment of SEM Doctors, including providing revalidation services.
  • Sport and Exercise Medicine consultants work in a variety of musculoskeletal and exercise medicine services across NHS primary and secondary care. They also work within sports from the ‘grass routes’ level up to supporting international teams and athletes.
  • The specialty has a large scale application in improving the musculoskeletal and physical health of the general public through exercise advice and prescription. Further information about the specialty can be found in the Media & Resources section at

For further information contact PR & Communications for the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine; email:, tel: 0131 527 3498, mobile: 07551903702