Exercise for Diabetics

Moderate Exercise Helps People with Diabetes

A new study suggests a link between greater physical activity, including walking, and a substantial reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes among women. According to the study published in the October 20, 1999 issue of JAMA, a greater level of physical activity including activity of moderate intensity and duration such as walking, is associatcd with a decreasd incidence of type 2 diabetes.

The current study surveyed 70,102 female nurses aged 40 to 65 years who did not have diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or cancer at study onset. All participants belonged to the Nurses’ Health Study cohort, which was established in 1976. Participants answered detailed questions on physical activity in 1986, and once again in 1988 and 1992. Although earlier analyses had studied only episodes of vigorous activity, this study focused on the amount of time spent on a variety of activities such as walking, jogging, running, bicycling, swimming or playing tennis. Researchers then compared the benefits of walking versus vigorous activity as predictors of subsequent risk of type 2 diabetes.

Before you start…

Although most people with diabetes can exercise safely, exercise involves some risks. To shift the benefit-to-risk ratio in your favor, take these precautions:

  • Have a medical exam before you begin your exercise program, including an exercise test with EKG monitoring, especially if you have cardiovascular disease, you are over 35, you have high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol levels, you smoke, or you have a family history of heart disease.
  • Discuss with your doctor any unusual symptoms that you experience during or after exercise.
  • If you have diabetes-related complications, check with your health care team about special precautions.
  • Learn how to prevent and treat low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia). If you take oral agents or insulin, monitor your blood sugar levels before, during, and after exercise.
  • If you have type 1 and your blood sugar is above 250 mg/dl, check your urine for ketones. Don’t exercise if ketones are present.
  • Always warm up and cool down.
  • Don’t exercise outdoors when the weather is too hot and humid or too cold.
  • Pay special attention to proper footwear. Inspect your feet daily and always after you exercise.

Results indicate that both walking and vigorous activity are associated with substantial reductions in thc risk of type 2 diabetes in women. Although many previous studies have suggested that physical activity may reduce risk, thc role of moderate physical activity has not been understood. These findings further support current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, which recommend at least 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity on most, and preferably all, days of the week.

Physical Fitness Predicts Survival in Men with Type 2 Diabetes

A recent study supports the idea that people with type 2 diabetes benefit from regular exercise and improved physical fitness which help them better control their blood sugar and live longer. Results of the study are reported in the April 18, 2000 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

The researchers, who wanted to find out whether people who have type 2 diabetes and are physically active live longer than those who are not, studied 1,263 men who had type 2 diabetes and received a thorough medical examination between 1970 and 1993. Study participants completed a medical history, answered questions about health and exercise habits, and had a physical examination, blood tests and electrocardiography.

Researchers looked for associations among exercise habits, physical fitness, and death. They found that participants who had a low level of fitness and were physically inactive had higher mortality rates during followup than men who were active and fit. Researchers conclude that physicians should encourage patients with type 2 diabetes to participate in regular physical activity and improve their cardiorespiratory fitness. Doing so may help them live longer, as well as control their blood sugar levels.