Most With Diabetes Not Exercising
Research Shows Importance of Exercise to Prevent Diabetes, Manage Symptoms
Jan. 26, 2007 -- Exercise is among the best things people with diabetes can
do to manage their disease, but most either are not getting the message or are
ignoring it, a new report confirms.
Only 39% of surveyed adults with diabetes engaged in regular physical
activity, compared with 58% of adults who did not have the disease, according
to a report in the February issue of Diabetes Care.
And activity levels declined as risk factors for type 2 diabetes
The national survey of more than 23,000 adults with diabetes, those at high
risk for the disease, and people without diabetes was conducted by researchers
from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.
Lead researcher Elaine Morrato, MPH, DRPH, tells WebMD she was not surprised
to find that those with diabetes were more sedentary than the general public.
But she was surprised so few at-risk people were physically active.
“Exercise has been shown to be instrumental in preventing diabetes among
people at high risk and in helping to manage symptoms in people with the
disease,” she says.
Study after study has confirmed that regular exercise, combined with modest
weight loss and a healthy diet, can lower type 2 diabetes risk and improve
outcomes once people have the disease.
In one of the most persuasive, researchers from the Diabetes Prevention
Program Research Group concluded that diet and regular exercise were more
effective than one of the most widely prescribed drug treatments for preventing
type 2 diabetes.
The American Diabetes Association recommends 30 minutes a day of aerobic
exercise, at least five times a week. Prevention guidelines released by the ADA
last August recommend 2.5 hours of regular physical activity a week.
People at high risk for developing diabetes should be even more physically
active, depending on their ability to exercise.
In the newly reported study, people who engaged in moderate or vigorous
activity of 30 minutes or more, three times a week, were considered physically
Morrato and colleagues surveyed 23,283 adults across the nation in 2003 and
found that those with the fewest risk factors for type 2 diabetes were the most
likely to be physically active; those with the most risk factors were the
The finding that fewer than 40% of adults with diabetes exercised regularly
was particularly troubling, the researchers say, because it suggests no
increase in activity levels among this high-risk population within the last
“It is difficult to be optimistic about addressing the twin epidemics of
obesity and diabetes without success in increasing physical activity in the
population,” they write.
Tailoring the Message
Morrato tells WebMD the challenge is twofold.
Motivating people who may have been sedentary all their lives to get active
So is giving people who are disabled because of diabetes or obesity better
“I think health care professionals could do a better job of telling people
with disabilities how they can exercise,” she says.
“Not everyone can get out and walk. People with mobility problems may need
to do chair exercises," says Morrato.
Diabetes prevention expert Mark Molitch, MD, tells WebMD most people have
gotten the message exercise is good for them.
But he adds there are fewer and fewer opportunities to be physically
“Our elementary and middle schools are doing away with recess and gym class.
We tell our kids to exercise, but don’t give them the chance to do it,"
says Moltich, who directs the endocrinology clinic at Northwestern University’s
Feinberg School of Medicine.
"The best way to prevent [type 2] diabetes is to prevent
obesity," says Moltich. "It is really hard to lose weight once you are