Women who spend most of their time at the gym on the treadmill or climbing stairs should tailor their workout regimen by adding dumbbells and squat racks. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Southern Denmark have concluded a study linking three and a half hours of weight training exercises each week to a dramatic decrease in type 2 diabetes risk among women.

"Despite limitations to which this research can be applied to women in general, it underlines the message that leading an active, healthy lifestyle can help to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes,” Dr. Richard Elliott, spokesman for Diabetes UK told the Express.

The study published in Wednesday’s edition of PLoS Medicine followed 99,316 healthy women between the ages of 36 and 81 for a period of eight years. Researchers asked participants to submit weekly reports tracking the amount of time they spent on resistance exercise, low intensity muscle training — such as yoga and stretching — and moderate to intense physical activity.

By the end of the study in 2009, 3,491 women who showed no signs of diabetes or cardiovascular risk at its beginning had developed type 2 diabetes. Women who participated in 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week on top of an hour of weight training were able to cut their risk of developing diabetes by upward of 40 percent. Furthermore, women who took in an hour’s worth of physical activity each week could still reduce their diabetes risk by around 13 percent.

"We know for certain that the best way to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes is to maintain a healthy weight by eating a healthy, balanced diet and by taking regular physical activity,” Dr. Elliot told the Express. “At this time of year, many people are looking for an easy way to lose weight and be more physically active. We recommend finding an activity you enjoy as you are more likely to stick with it and stay motivated."

According to the American Diabetes Association, 25.8 million children and adults in the United States are currently affected by diabetes including seven million people who have not been diagnosed. Risk factors for diabetes development include unhealthy eating, lack of physical activity, smoking, high blood sugar, and unhealthy cholesterol levels. Programs offered by the ADA such as My Health Advisor are designed to assess a person’s diabetes risk and suggest lifestyle changes for people at risk of diabetes, such as overweight people and those with a family history of the disease.