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38 Minutes to Better Health With Diabetes

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

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).

Step 6: Enjoy a Fatter Wallet

Besides boosting health, activity also cut the amount of money participants spent on medical costs. The more active they were, the less they forked out for health care expenses.

"Over two years, prescription costs, which were usually medication for diabetes, [high blood pressure], and dyslipidemia [cholesterol and other lipid problems], were reduced by $259 and other healthcare costs by $259 per capita per year in the entire group, even after allowing for the costs of counseling, which took a physician 75 minutes over the first year and 60 minutes over the second," says the study.

Those figures may not translate directly to the U.S., where medical costs are generally higher than in Italy, say the researchers.


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