5 Fun, Deprivation-Free Ways to Decrease Your Disease Risk

For every two hours that people watch TV each day, they increase their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 20 percent and their risk of getting heart disease by 15 percent, according to a recent analysis in the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

But if you decide switch off your television in the interest of staying healthy, you may wonder how you'll spend all that extra leisure time. Here's what you can do to enjoy life—and cut your chance of getting diabetes.

1. Take a Coffee Break!
Bottoms up! Drinking java at lunchtime may decrease your chances of getting diabetes, research shows.

In a study of close to 70,000 women, researchers found that participants who drank a cup of joe at lunch reduced their diabetes risk by one third over several years. It didn't matter whether it was decaf or caffeinated coffee, or if it was sweetened or not.

The crucial factor seemed to be the time of day the coffee was consumed, according to the article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. And the researchers found that the decreased diabetes risk was evident only when black coffee was consumed.

2. Enjoy a Beer
Next time you feel like quenching your thirst with a brewsky, go ahead: it may cut your diabetes risk.

Moderate beer drinking also may reduce your risk of high blood pressure and help you shed pounds, according to a Spanish study reported by UPI. Of course, this comes with a catch: the researchers found that combining beer with both exercise and a Mediterranean diet conferred the health benefits. And, of course, moderation is key when it comes to consuming alcohol.

3. Eat Seafood!
Enjoy a salmon dinner along with a salad tossed with a dressing made with canola oil.

Individuals who consume plentiful amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish, especially fatty fish like salmon, lessen their chance of getting type 2 diabetes, according to two studies reported by Reuters.

A study of more than 3,000 older Americans found that participants with the highest blood levels of two omega-3s found in fatty fish (EPA and DHA) were 33 percent less likely to get diabetes over the next 10 years than individuals with the lowest levels of these omega-3s.

A second study, this one in Singapore, found that individuals who consumed the most ALA, an omega-3 fat in some plant foods such as flaxseed and canola, reduced their diabetes risk. Both studies appeared in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Don't rush to lay in a stock of fish oil capsules just yet, though, since there's no proof that omega-3 fats in and of themselves battle Type 2 diabetes. Instead, make sure you eat "whole" foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and fish.

4. Get Zen!
Though there's not sufficient evidence yet to prescribe yoga as a "cure" for type 2 diabetes, it appears that practicing the ancient art may be beneficial to your health if you've got diabetes. 

A recent study, from the University of  Pittsburgh School of Nursing, focused on 23 adults who either went to a yoga intervention group or to an educational group.

Individuals in the yoga group had two sessions a week of yoga for three months, while the other group received health education materials every two weeks. The yoga group, when compared with the educational group, showed improvements in their weight, blood pressure, insulin, and triglycerides.

"This preliminary study indicates that a yoga program would be a possible risk reduction option for adults at high risk for type 2 diabetes," wrote the authors of the study, which appeared in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

An added benefit: yoga also offers stress relief and pain relief, increases strength, and improves flexibility.

Interested in learning how to master the downward facing dog, the triangle pose, and the big toe pose? Put on some exercise clothes, get ready to have fun, and find a certified yoga instructor at yogaalliance.org.

5. Exercise in Short Bursts!
If you're feeling guilty because you simply can't find the time to work out for a half hour or more a day, don't throw in the (exercise) towel just yet.

A shorter period of very intense exercise on a weekly basis may be as effective, or even more effective, at reducing your chances of getting type 2 diabetes as a daily half hour of moderate physical activity, according to research reported by Reuters.

"It is possible to gain significant health benefits from only 7.5 minutes of exercise each week," James A. Timmons, professor of exercise biology at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, and one of the study researchers, said, according to Reuters. "This is a dramatically different view from current thinking."

The study, which appeared in the journal BMC Endocrine Disorders, focused on 16 men who exercised three times a week for two weeks. But instead of an exhausting hour on the treadmill, they did a series of 30-second sprints, according to the BBC. After cycling for as fast as possible, they would then rest for a few minutes. Timmons noted that the young men saw a 23 percent improvement in their insulin function in just two weeks. He called the results "substantial," according to the BBC.

Before starting on any new exercise regimen, be sure to check with your healthcare provider.

Gardner, Amanda. "TV watching raises risk of health problems, dying young." 14 June 2011. CNN.com.

"Lunchtime coffee break best for fighting diabetes." 5 March 2010. QualityHealth.com.

"Surprising—and fun—ways to cut diabetes risk." 3 June 2011. Men's Health.

"Moderate beer drinking said health benefits." 13 January 2011. UPI.com.

Norton, Amy. "Omega-3 fats linked to lower diabetes risk." 3 June 2011. Reuters/MedlinePlus.

Yang, Kyeongra, Bernardo, Lisa M., Sereika, Susan M., Conroy, Molly B., Balk, Judy, Burke, Lora E.,  "Utilization of 3-Month Yoga Program for Adults at High Risk for Type 2 Diabetes: A Pilot Study," Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Published online 9 January 2011.

"Short fast sprints 'cut' diabetes," 28 January 2009. BBC.

Harding, Anna. "Sprints may be best for diabetes prevention." 16 February 2009. Reuters.