The Roles of Physical Activity in Preventing Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: The Implications for Sub-Saharan Africa

*Corresponding author: Taoreed Azeez*, Abimbola Lawal and Olufemi Ogundiran

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systematic review



Diabetes mellitus is a chronic metabolic disorder characterized by hyperglycaemia which is due to reduced insulin secretion and/or action. It has 6 sub-classes but type 2 is the most common. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is rising at a very high rate in the sub-Saharan Africa region. Prevention is however better than cure and there are multiple pieces of evidence of the highest level that type 2 diabetes is preventable. Prevention of type 2 diabetes is looked at from the perspectives of primary, secondary, tertiary and quaternary prevention.


Measures that have been documented in the literature that can be adopted in the prevention of diabetes include lifestyle modification, pharmacotherapy and surgical interventions. Lifestyle modification is the most commonly reported measure and physical activity is a central focus in lifestyle modification. Physical activity refers to all body movements that lead to expenditure of energy above the resting level. Exercise is a structured and monitored subset of physical activity. Physical activity has been documented to help in the primordial prevention of type 2 diabetes for children born to a woman with gestational diabetes. It helps in modifying risk factors for diabetes such as obesity, dyslipidaemia and high blood pressure.


It is also valuable for secondary prevention of diabetes by modifying risk factors such as obesity, hypertension, excess calorie intake and lipids. Physical activity plays a central role in the management of a patient diagnosed with diabetes at the level of secondary prevention. Effective rehabilitation of patients with type 2 diabetes who have suffered macrovascular complications would constitute a tertiary level of prevention. Since physical activity is an effective, affordable and available form of preventing type 2 diabetes sub-Saharan Africa where the population has limited resources can leverage on its cost-effectiveness. This will help to improve longevity and improve the quality of life of people and save scarce resources in the region.


Physical activity; Type 2 diabetes; Prevention; Sub-Saharan Africa.