Exercise: Good Preventive 'Medicine' for Diabetes

< Aug. 08, 2012 > -- Exercise should be your mantra whether you have diabetes or want to prevent it.

A pair of new studies found that regular exercise among people who have diabetes can help prevent premature death - and exercise can also help prevent type 2 diabetes among people who don't already have it.

Photo of man working out with weight machine

The studies were published online this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

In the first study, German researchers examined data on nearly 6,000 people with diabetes. Those who got regular exercise - whether traditional exercise like biking or walking, or general activities like gardening or housework - were less likely to die early.

Exercise combo

The second study, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health looked at more than 32,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study over an 18-year period. They found that men who got regular aerobic exercise and weight training were less likely to get type 2 diabetes. The risk dropped by 59 percent for men who got more than 150 minutes a week of both aerobic exercise and weight training.

Weight training alone also cut the risk for type 2 diabetes, the researchers found. Men who lifted weights for 60 to 149 minutes a week reduced their risk by 25 percent, and those who lifted for at least 150 minutes reduced their risk by 34 percent.

Even a small amount of weight training helped. Men who lifted weights for just up to 59 minutes a week reduced their risk for diabetes by 12 percent.

Benefits of lifting weights

"Until now, previous studies have reported that aerobic exercise is of major importance for type 2 diabetes prevention," says lead author Anders Grontved, M.P.H. "But many people have difficulty engaging in or adhering to aerobic exercise. These new results suggest that weight training, to a large extent, can serve as an alternative to aerobic exercise for type 2 diabetes prevention."

The researchers speculate that weight training works to prevent diabetes by increasing muscle mass and improving insulin sensitivity.

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Stay Active to Control Blood Sugar

Being active is a great way to help control your diabetes because exercise helps lower your blood sugar. During physical activity, your body uses insulin much more efficiently than it does at rest.

But you'll need to take certain precautions when you exercise. Before and after your workout, measure your blood glucose level. Doing so will help you track the effects of exercise on your blood glucose.

Your doctor can help you figure out what your blood sugar level should be before, during, and after exercise. If your blood sugar level is either too low or too high before you begin to work out, it's best to wait until your level improves. It's also important to monitor your blood glucose when you exercise in unusually hot or cold conditions, because temperature changes affect how your body absorbs insulin.

Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, usually happens slowly, so when you exercise, pay attention to how you are feeling. If you feel shaky, anxious, sweat more than usual, or have a change in your heartbeat, you should stop exercising and do what your health provider advises to treat low blood sugar.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

American Diabetes Association - Fitness

Annals of Internal Medicine - Physical Activity and Mortality in Individuals With Diabetes Mellitus

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse - Type 2 Diabetes: What You Need to Know

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