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Top Diabetes Treatment is Exercise

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Diabetes causes such serious health problems that the risk of death is twice as high for someone with diabetes compared to someone of similar age without. More than 20 million people in the US have diabetes (colloquially called "the sugar" disease) with 2 million a year more cases diagnosed every year. Exercise has been found to be a top factor to prevent and treat diabetes.

Three main types of diabetes are type 1, type 2, and gestational.

  • Type 1 diabetes, where the body does not make enough insulin (in the body organ called the pancreas), is treated with injected or inhaled insulin, although nutrition and exercise changes are a fundamental part of management.
  • An estimated 90–95% of cases of diabetes in North American are type 2. Type 2 diabetes is also called non insulin-dependent diabetes and obesity-related diabetes. Type 2 was rare until modern sedentary habits combined with mass sales of unhealthful food.
  • Gestational diabetes is generally a form of type 2 during pregnancy.
  • In the recent past, type 2 diabetes developed only in adults as they gained weight, reduced activity, and increased packaged, commercial, unhealthful foods. An escalating phenomenon of type 2 diabetes in children is now occurring.
  • Approximately 85% percent of adults and children diagnosed with type 2 are overweight and less active than they could be. Type 2 is increasingly being found to be best treated with more fun movement and less bad food, a win-win situation.

    Several studies have found that exercise and healthier diet are more effective than medicine for people with type 2 diabetes. A recent randomized controlled Canadian study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that people with type 2 diabetes who began exercising developed better blood sugar control, both from aerobic exercise and resistance training. Not exercising yielded no improvements in sugar control. People who combined aerobic exercise and also lifted weights had the biggest improvement. It is not known in this study if results occurred because of the type of exercise mattered, or because the duration of exercise was greater in the combined exercise training group. According to an editorial co-published with the study, "Doctors should prescribe exercise to all type 2 diabetes patients who are healthy enough to work out."

    In the past people with diabetes and diabetes-related complications were discouraged from exercise. However, exercise has been known in the past, with recent substantiating studies, to be the top factor to prevent and reverse diabetic problems. According to William Kraus, MD, of Duke University Medical Center, "Failing to prescribe exercise to patients with diabetes is simply unacceptable practice."

    Things To Help

    • You do not need a gym or special clothes or equipment to get aerobic or weight lifting exercise.
    • Go outdoors for a break every day that you can, for fresh air, sunshine, and fun movement.
    • For both active and resistance exercise indoors and out, remember that daily healthful movement easily accumulates from your healthy bending, balancing while dressing, taking the stairs, and other daily real life movement.
    • Have fun - skate, bowl, cycle, walk, go dancing, gardening, shoot hoops, take food to shut-ins and get them moving too, with improvised exercise of moving arms and legs, clapping, singing, and having fun.
    • For fun exercise-as-lifestyle ideas, check through lists of Fitness Fixer posts, linked at the right of each article.
    • For better nutritional mindset, click A Little Good Exercise, a Lot of Bad Food - Overweight Still No Mystery. Then for specific recipes and methods click the nutrition label under this and related posts.
    • My post Hyperbarics for Diabetic Foot Injury gives more information on preventing amputations from diabetic wounds, and lists some of the ways that exercise reverses the contributors and complications of diabetes.


    There is great hope. Have fun making a new healthier life.

    healed photo by Kolleggerium
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    About the Author


    M.Ed, PhD, FAWM

    Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.

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