Women who have gestational diabetes during pregnancy have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Certain lifestyle changes may reduce that risk.
A recent study showed that women with a history of gestational diabetes who were the most physically active had the lowest risk of developing type 2 diabetes later.
However, women who spent the most time watching TV were more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than women who did not watch much TV.
Wei Bao, MD, PhD, of the National Institutes of Health, led this study.
Gestational diabetes occurs among pregnant women who had not had diabetes previously but have high blood sugar levels during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes can cause health problems for both mother and baby.
Infants born to women with gestational diabetes may be large for their age, have low blood sugar, and be more likely to become obese. Women with gestational diabetes have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes after they give birth.
According to Dr. Bao and colleagues, about one-third of women with type 2 diabetes have a history of gestational diabetes.
This study examined the effects of physical activity, TV watching time and sedentary activity (inactivity) on the progression of diabetes among women who had a history of gestational diabetes.
Dr. Bao and team recruited 4,554 women who had previously had gestational diabetes and followed up with them from 1991 to 2007.
These researchers periodically assessed the amount of time the women spent physically active and engaging in sedentary behavior.
Participants reported how much time per week they spent walking, jogging, bicycling and doing other physical activities. They also reported the average time they spent watching TV or sitting.
In total, the participants' exercise and sedentary behaviors were assessed four times over the course of the study.
After the completion of the study, the researchers found 635 cases of type 2 diabetes among the women with a history of gestational diabetes.
They found that women who spent the most time physically active were leaner and less likely to be smokers compared to the rest of the women.
The authors of the study reported that for every 100 minutes per week spent doing moderate physical activity, the women had a 9 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
Compared with women who maintained their levels of physical activity, women who increased the amount of time they spent exercising by 150 minutes per week had a 47 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
Women who watched 20 or more hours of television per week were about 77 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than women who watched zero to five hours per week.
Dr. Bao and team concluded that physical activity may help lower the risk of gestational diabetes progressing into type 2 diabetes.
They suggested that women with a history of gestational diabetes engage in a more active lifestyle.
This study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine on May 19.
The research was funded by the Intramural Research Program of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.