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Exercise... it's not just for weight loss

Experts are urging those with type 2 diabetes to exercise, but not only for the reasons you think.  Of course everyone knows when you exercise you burn calories.  Burning calories can help with weight loss.

Sometimes weight loss isn't as speedy as we'd like when exercising.  This can cause people to give up on exercise, frustrated with the returns for their physical effort.  Experts say instead of focusing on the scale when you exercise, concentrate on the many other benefits of exercise.  These benefits include:

  • improved blood sugar control
  • increased HDL-cholesterol (good cholesterol)
  • improved blood pressure
  • increased fitness, strength and flexibility
  • enhanced well-being and personal attitude

Exercise also reduces risk of heart disease and death.  Experts believe the main reason those with diabetes should exercise is to reduce risk of heart disease and death from major diseases.  Does it work?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) studied over 2800 people with diabetes to evaluate the long-term effects of exercise (walking) on mortality.  Subjects were studied over an 8 year period.  The CDC found walking extended life of subjects regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, body mass index, period of time since diagnosis, and whether complications were experienced.

Those who walked at least 2 hours per week reduced their risk for heart disease death by 34%.  Those walking 3-4 hours per week reduced mortality by 54%.  Walking at a moderate intensity decreased risk for death.

Blair, S. & Church, T.  The Importance of Physical Activity and Cardiorespiratory Fitness for Patients with Type 2 Diabetes.  Diabetes Spectrum 16: 236-240.

Center for Disease Control.  Publications & Products Fact Sheet.  Relationship of Walking to Mortality among U.S. Adults with Diabetes. 

Notes - Always speak with your doctor prior to starting an exercise program.  Ask your doctor how often, how long, and what type of exercise is best for you.

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