Aerobic Exercise and Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes affects over 10% of the adult US population and is growing in prevalence in the industrialized world.  Total medical costs for people with diabetes are approximately five times those of the general, nondiabetic population.

Multiple studies have shown that lifestyle changes, including increased activity and exercise, dietary changes, and weight loss, can effectively prevent type 2 diabetes and that these lifestyle changes are as, or more, effective that pharmacologic therapy.  The relative importance of each of these lifestyle changes is, however, not known.  A recent study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise attempted to isolate the role of aerobic exercise on the development of type 2 diabetes.

The 163 subjects were sedentary, nonsmoking, nondiabetic men and women between the ages of 50 and 75 years.  Their blood pressures were normal or well controlled on medication.  They had no history of cardiovascular disease, were not on lipid or glucose lowering medications, and had a BMI of less than 37.  The subjects were classified as normal or prediabetic based upon their fasting blood glucose and/or their glucose level at two hours of a glucose tolerance test.

The subjects participated in a six month aerobic exercise training program, with initial intensity based upon their baseline aerobic conditioning.  Both the duration and intensity of the exercise program were increased as the participants improved their aerobic conditioning.  All subjects had a stable diet and weight prior beginning the training program and the diet was adjusted throughout the program to prevent significant weight loss or gain.

The authors found that (a) the prediabetic subjects had a greater response to exercise in their glucose control than the normal subjects and that (b) about a third of the prediabetic subjects achieved normal status following the training program, although, on average the prediabetic group continued to have impaired glucose control.  No significant predictive differences were found between the subgroup that normalized their glucose control and the subgroup that did not.  The authors speculate that a longer and/or more intensive training program may have resulted in more subjects achieving normality.

These results confirm that aerobic exercise is a significant component of lifestyle intervention to prevent type 2 diabetes.  At Practical Health Strategies we help clients develop realistic exercise routines.  We know exercise programs that are not enjoyable and convenient will not be maintained.

Practical Health Strategies (, offers wellness programs in the Pensacola and Mobile area, and throughout north Florida, and south Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi.  Practical Health Strategies offers Wellness Plans you can Live With!

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