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Diabetes and Exercise: Success Story

WebMD Feature

When Jennifer Auyer's father died at age 64 from complications of type 2 diabetes, she faced a turning point in her own struggle with the disease.

Her father's diabetes had led to heart disease, a quadruple bypass, a foot amputation, vision problems, and other serious health problems. "It was a really painful experience, for him and for all of us," says Auyer, who lives in Nashua, NH.

Growing up, Auyer never saw her father, a heavy man, exercise. She had become overweight, too. As a working mom, she had trouble finding the time to exercise.

Auyer's turning point came when she decided her busy life could no longer be an excuse to keep from getting into shape.

"I said, 'I don't want to go through what he went through.' I was following the same path, and what am I going to do differently? I wanted to find something to help me. I was desperate."

When she heard about a weight loss and exercise class at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, she signed up fast. The course was taught by Jacqueline Shahar, a clinical exercise physiologist.

Taking It One Step at a Time

In Shahar’s weekly class, Auyer learned strength training exercises like resistance training with elastic bands to improve muscle strength. Auyer would practice in class to make sure she was doing them right, then repeat the routines at home.

Strength training boosts muscle mass so that you burn more glucose.

In another big step, Auyer also began interval training (switching between high-intensity aerobic activity with less intense work, like pedaling fast on a bike for 30 seconds, then going at a slower speed for 90 seconds). Altering the speed and intensity of the workout challenges the muscles, helping burn more calories, boost fitness, and improve insulin sensitivity, according to Shahar.

Auyer says she enjoys interval training because “it keeps everything fast-paced and fresh."

At home, long stretches of treadmill walking bore her. So she changes her pace. She'll walk on the treadmill for 10 minutes, then run for another few minutes.

"Then I'll jump off and do the resistance bands for a few minutes, then squats or side steps, then maybe I'll jump back on the treadmill for 10 minutes," Auyer says. "The next thing you know, an hour has gone by, and I feel so invigorated."

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