Exercise Helps Diabetics Live Longer
April 18, 2000 -- Exercise, exercise, exercise. You've been assaulted with
study after study showing the benefits that regular exercise offers your heart.
However, new study results suggest that regular physical activity may have an
additional benefit for the 15 million Americans with type 2 diabetes -- it may
help them live longer.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body can't make enough or properly use
insulin, the hormone needed to maintain blood sugar levels. Often, type 2
diabetes can be controlled by losing weight, improved nutrition, and exercise
alone, but sometimes oral medications and/or insulin must be used.
However, researchers found that type 2 diabetics who did not exercise were
more likely to die during a 12-year period than were their more active,
physically fit counterparts, according to a study in the April 18 issue of the
journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
Experts not affiliated with the study praise the new findings because they
emphasize the importance of regular exercise in the treatment and prevention of
Regular exercise promotes weight loss, improves blood sugar control, and
lowers blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, but its benefits appear to
extend beyond its effect on these heart disease risk factors for people with
"Patients with type 2 diabetes should participate in regular physical
activity," lead researcher Ming Wei, MD, tells WebMD. "The current
public health recommendation of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on
most days of the week would also be suitable for patients with type 2
diabetes." Wei is a clinical epidemiologist at the Cooper Clinic in
But, Wei cautions, "we suggest patients with type 2 diabetes who plan to
begin an exercise program see their doctors first." (Click here to determine your exercise heart rate.)
The researchers found that among more
than 1,200 men with type 2 diabetes, those who did not exercise and did not
perform well on an exercise stress test were about twice as likely to die over
the following 12 years than men who exercised.
"Exercise is such an important
part in the treatment of diabetes," Barry J. Goldstein, MD, tells WebMD.
"It helps manage the condition when a person has it and clearly prevents it
from happening among people at high risk for the disease." He is director
of the division of endocrinology and metabolic disorders at Jefferson Medical
College in Philadelphia.
Getting started is the hardest part,
he says. "People always say they feel better when they are exercising. The
type of exercise plan that you can stick to is one that can be incorporated
into your daily routine -- whether walking to the office, walking to the car,
or even walking around the house."
In an editorial accompanying the new
study, Charles M. Clark Jr., MD, writes that "general admonishments to get
more exercise are as unlikely to work as general advice to eat less or stop
smoking. Specific programs need to be prescribed, and follow-up is
essential." He is with the Richard Roudebush VA Medical Center in