What Is The Best Exercise Program For Diabetes?

By on September 30, 2011

The exercise recommendations for people with diabetes are similar to those for healthy adults.For most diabetic individuals who have been given medical clearance to begin exercising, near-daily physical activity, for 20 to 45 minutes, at a moderate to somewhat hard intensity level, is recommended.

A high frequency of exercise is essential since the residual effects of an acute exercise bout on glucose tolerance last for only one or two days. Also, for an obese person with NIDDM, near-daily activity will help ensure that an adequate number of calories are expended to assist in weight loss.

Exercise sessions of less than 20 minutes’ duration appear to have little benefit for diabetic control, while sessions lasting more than 45 minutes increase the risk of hypoglycemia. According to Dr. Barry Baun of the University of California at Berkeley, low-intensity exercise (50 percent of VO2max *) is just as effective as high-intensity exercise (75 percent of VO2max) in enhancing insulin sensitivity in persons with diabetes as long as the caloric expenditure is equalized by increasing the duration of the low-intensity exercise bouts.

Since most people with diabetes are poorly conditioned, an easy start to the exercise program, with gradual progression, is advised. Aerobic, endurance-type activities involving large muscle groups, such as cycling, brisk walking, and swimming, are recommended. Weight-training exercises designed to improve muscle endurance through high repetitions with moderate weight will help avoid high blood pressure responses. Each exercise session should begin with an appropriate warm-up and cooldown period.

Unfortunately, studies have shown that the majority of people with diabetes do not exercise regularly, and they tend to exercise less than people who do not have diabetes. According to national data complied by Dr. Earl Ford of the Centers for Disease Control, only about one in three people with diabetes reports exercising regularly, and less than one in five burns 2,000 calories or more per week in exercise. “The data suggest that, as is the case for the general population, ample room for improvement exists in the exercise habits of Americans with diabetes,” Dr. Ford states in his summary.

Most experts feel that health care providers play a key role in encouraging their patients with diabetes to exercise. However, in one study, only 25 percent of people with diabetes reported receiving specific guidelines about exercise from any type of health care professional.