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Diabetes Health Center

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38 Minutes to Better Health With Diabetes

Walking that much (or more) improves health of diabetes patients, says study

Step 3: Learn How

Participants got a counseling program designed to help them become more active. Moderate-intensity exercise was recommended.

Doctors should help their patients "start slow, increase gradually, [and] celebrate the success of achieving each goal," says the University of Colorado's James Hill, PhD, in the editorial.

A step-counter (pedometer) might also help, says Hill. The devices are inexpensive ($10-$20). Worn on the waist, they count the number of steps you take.

Hill's advice: Wear a pedometer for a couple of days, tell your doctor how many steps you take on a normal day, and then make a plan with your doctor to nudge that number up. The ultimate goal would be 6,400 extra steps per day, says Hill. However, he doesn't recommend doing that all at once.

Step 4: Get Going

All the knowledge in the world won't help if it just gathers dust in the brain. At some point, action has to be taken.

No one made the study's subjects use what they learned in the counseling program. Instead, di Loretto and colleagues sat back and watched what happened for the next two years. (Yes, two years. Think fundamental change, not short-term exercise binge.)

Participants filled out activity surveys every three months. They were also asked to record their activities every day. Those who were overweight or obese got 300 calories trimmed from their daily diets.

Some people didn't budge much, sticking to their usual activity level. Others walked a bit more than before, and some radically ramped up their activity level.

Step 5: Reap the Rewards

Their efforts paid off. The least amount of additional activity that helped blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar was 38 minutes per day (about 2.2 miles). That was over and above whatever participants were already doing.

Bump that up to an hour (walking about 3 miles), and people had greater improvements plus some weight loss (which didn't happen at lower levels of exercise). Those who were even more active improved most, says the study.

Ideally, the researchers say they recommend walking 3 miles in an hour every day (or getting an equivalent amount of exercise). That's a "reasonable target," they say, noting that greater activity levels yielded even better results.

Exercise may be particularly effective in slashing belly fat, says the study. Fat waistlines have been shown to be less healthy than fat in other parts of the body (such as the hips).

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