38 Minutes to Better Health With Diabetes
Walking that much (or more) improves health of diabetes patients, says study
May 25, 2005 -- People with type 2 diabetes may be able to upgrade their
health in about half the time it takes to watch one episode of Desperate
Increasing physical activity by 38 minutes a day helped people with type 2
diabetes improve their blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels,
even without losing weight. Those who walked a little longer (about an hour a
day) made even more progress and shed some extra pounds, too.
Those results come from an Italian study in June's issue of Diabetes
Care. The findings prompted a journal editorial urging doctors to help
their diabetes patients start walking. Here's a look at what it takes.
Step 1: Get Cleared for Take-off
Research has shown that people with diabetes benefit more when they eat
healthfully and add exercise to their routine. That finding -- based on women
with type 2 diabetes -- was reported in The Journal of Clinical
Endocrinology & Metabolism in March.
Easier said than done? Making big lifestyle changes on top of a demanding
health condition can seem hard, confusing, or tough to get right.
So delete the guesswork. It's best to check in with a doctor first. That
way, you can get approval to exercise, find out about safe and effective
methods, and gain encouragement from a medical expert.
Step 2: Choose an Activity
The people in the study weren't superathletes. They were about 62 years old,
on average, and they were all in roughly the same condition at the study's
They also didn't exercise in a fancy gym or plunk down a lot of money for
trainers. Instead, they were free to do as much exercise of any kind as they
wished. Most chose brisk walking, say the researchers, who included Chara di
Loretto, MD, of the internal medicine department at Italy's University of
People who can't walk may want to consider other types of exercise that
don't strain the body as much, like swimming or riding a stationary bike, says
the study. Those who want to do more intense exercise (like jogging) may need a
shorter amount of time, say the researchers.
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
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.