Exercise Benefits People with Diabetes

Seven simple ways to improve your health and enhance your quality of life

Because of obesity, lack of physical fitness or other reasons, people with diabetes may forego exercise, but physical activity benefits them whether they “get in shape” or not. Physical activity and weight management can still have tremendous benefits in controlling the disease and minimizing the negative health consequences.

One of the first steps for people with diabetes or other active chronic diseases to attaining a healthy body weight is speaking with your healthcare provider to assess your current health and physical abilities and address any medical questions or concerns that you may have. Together, you can determine the amount and type of physical activity that is appropriate. As a general rule, at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (or a combination of both) per week is recommended. In addition to helping manage body weight, regular physical activity can help improve blood cholesterol and blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.

In a recent study, researchers enrolled 202 people with Type 2 diabetes into three exercise groups and a control group. Exercisers did either aerobic conditioning, resistance training or a combination of the two for nine months.

Here’s the good news: People in all the exercise groups improved their waist circumference, body fat percentage, and hemoglobin A1c levels, regardless of changes to fitness capacity. Hemoglobin A1c is a long-term measure of blood sugar.

“What this study does is go against a hypothesis that cardiorespiratory fitness is everything,” said Robert Eckel, M.D., former American Heart Association president and professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, who was not involved in the study.

In other words, you may be improving your health by doing exercise even if your fitness levels don’t change. It is true that for many people, exercising regularly improves their fitness levels, measured by how well the body exchanges carbon dioxide and oxygen. However, some people don’t improve their fitness level despite exercising. They’re known as “non-responders.”

You may be one of those people, so don’t get discouraged, get physical. The goal is to do at least 150 minutes of moderate activity each week. If you can’t manage a 30-minute workout, aim for blocks of at least 10 minutes until you meet your goal.

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