Could This Unconventional “Prescription” Be Crucial to People With Diabetes?

The American Diabetes Association published guidelines in 2006 recommending that individuals with diabetes engage regularly in both aerobic activity and resistance training, yet very few people with diabetes get the exercise they need. A 2016 review of these guidelines, along with 10 similar publications from organizations around the world, suggests that effective diabetes treatment plans should include prescriptions for patient-specific fitness regimens.

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About the Study

Researchers at the Public Health Unit, ACES Douro I—Marao e Douro Norte in Vila Real, Portugal, compared 11 publications that offered physical activity guidelines and recommendations for people with Type 2 diabetes. The group found a general consensus worldwide on the types and amounts of exercise a person with diabetes should get, as well as the importance and benefits of these activities.

Based on the findings, lead author Dr. Romeu Mendes believes exercise is a critical part of controlling diabetes. He also thinks that “insufficient awareness about the potential benefits of exercise and the lack of specific knowledge about current recommendations” may be the reason most people with diabetes don’t exercise.

The Benefits of Exercise

Physical activity plays a major role in weight loss and healthy weight maintenance, especially when it’s paired with a healthy diet. Exercise also improves insulin sensitivity, helps control blood sugar and reduces the risks of cardiovascular complications. These benefits are apparent in both aerobic activity and resistance training, but improvements typically disappear if regular fitness patterns aren’t followed. Routine movement and physical activity also help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

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Creating Your Exercise Plan

Current guidelines recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week with no more than two days between workouts. Swimming, jogging, cycling, and walking are all good forms of aerobic exercise, depending on your capabilities. At least two days of resistance training with machines or free weights are also recommended.

Some organizations also encourage people with diabetes to perform flexibility exercises to minimize workout injuries, such as these simple moves you can do in your chair. Your doctor can suggest suitable activities and exercises based on your current condition, capabilities and health goals. Research on the benefits of exercise to people with Type 2 diabetes is still quite limited.

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