Exercise Benefits Diabetics Beyond Weight Loss, Study Finds

New research points to notable exercise benefits for people afflicted with type 2 diabetes.

The research, published in the recent issue of the journal Diabetes Care, looked at different exercise strategies for people with type 2 diabetes. According to U.S. News and World Report, the researchers found that the people who exercised had lower body fat, smaller waist size and showed better blood sugar control than the people who were inactive during the study period.

“The positive effects of exercise were seen whether people did aerobic exercise, resistance training or a combination of the two,” reports U.S. News and World Report. “People also saw positive effects from exercise even if they didn't have any improvement in their heart/lung (cardiorespiratory) fitness, the investigators found.”

The study’s findings are quite promising for diabetes sufferers.

"What we observed is that exercise improves diabetes control regardless of improvement in exercise capacity," co-author Dr. Jarett Berry, associate professor of internal medicine and clinical sciences at UT Southwestern, said in a center news release.

While some people (around 30 percent) won’t show any improvements in cardiorespiratory health with exercise, the researchers says that’s not necessarily a qualifying factor for success in this case. “We need to broaden our understanding of what it means to respond to exercise training," Berry said.

We know that exercise can help to improve overall health and even prevent diabetes (in combination with a healthy diet). But the new research findings could have a profound impact on diabetics and diabetes treatment.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 29 million Americans have diabetes and at least one in four people suffering aren’t aware they have the disease. About 86 million Americans are considered to be prediabetic, at risk of developing type 2 diabetes within five years if they do not change their diet and lifestyle habits.

 The fact that some of the diabetes patients who exercised didn't have improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness, but still gained other health benefits, "suggests that our definition of 'non-responder' is too narrow. We need to broaden our understanding of what it means to respond to exercise training," Berry said.

Exercise programs for type 2 diabetes patients should track improvements in blood sugar control, body fat and waist size, the researchers suggested.

image: Jonathan Rolande 


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