When 54-year-old Leslie Hermitt recently took a routine blood test, he learned he had type 2 diabetes.
"It came showing that I had sugar in the blood," Hermitt says.
Hermitt becomes one of 15 million Americans with a disease often called the epidemic of our time.
Type 2 diabetes is caused by the body being unable to use the insulin it makes. There is no cure. But a study from the Harvard School of Public Health, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, says there is a way to prevent it by exercising regularly.
"Our research suggests that people can cut the risk of type 2 diabetes nearly in half if they spend one hour or so walking briskly every day," says Dr. Frank Hu of the Harvard School of Public Health.
The study followed 70,000 women over an eight-year period. Walking was their most common exercise. The faster the pace, the more they were able to reduce their risk.
"It doesn't matter how they get the exercise; the most important [thing] is that they exercise," Hu says.
The same applies to men.
Obesity is a major risk factor. At New York's Columbia Presbyterian Center, Dr. Robin Goland has long advocated the benefits of exercise to prevent and treat diabetics.
"Exercise helps the body use sugar more efficiently. And the problem in type 2 diabetes is that your body doesn't use sugar normally. So anything you can to help that, reduces the risk," says Goland.
The study recommends one hour of exercise. This could be spread throughout the day, including walking on your lunch hour, using stairs instead of the elevator. The important thing is to do it.
For more information on the study, go to the Harvard School of Public Health Web site.
©1999, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved