Exercise For Diabetes May Work Better Than Medication

Diabetes is a chronic condition which requires substantial lifestyle changes and medications to be kept in check. New research, however, is rewriting the book on this serious disease, showing that tailored exercise for diabetes can be more beneficial than medication on its own, helping to alleviate the symptoms of diabetes along the way, including:

  • Reducing blood pressure
  • Lowering cholesterol levels
  • Improving blood sugar control
  • Regulating insulin sensitivity

Experts are now suggesting that such exercise programs could even replace medications in many instances.

Exercise Can Help Treat Diabetes

If you have diabetes, you should exercise to control the condition. That’s the finding of a new study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Researchers have discovered that the guidelines issued by scientific organizations for those suffering from type 2 diabetes does not go far enough in using exercise as a therapy for diabetics.

The study looked at 11 reputable publications in a variety of medicinal fields including cardiology, endocrinology and sports medicine. The guidelines and recommendations for the treatment of diabetes and its complications were compared with each other to ascertain whether there was a scientific consensus for using exercise to alleviate type 2 diabetes.

Researchers found that experts recommended:

  • At least 150 minutes of moderate or vigorous aerobic exercise spread out across 3 days every week.
  • This should be supplemented with resistance or strength training at least 2 days a week.
  • Flexibility training such as yoga will also be beneficial.
  • Combining both aerobic and resistance training in the one exercise session might also help to improve fitness for those with diabetes.

By also looking at case studies and the scientific literature as a whole, the researchers discovered that type 2 diabetes appears to be controllable if treated with a consistent exercise program. The study recommends that patients with this most common type of diabetes should be given a form of “exercise prescription”. The age, weight, fitness levels and other medical conditions are taken into consideration so that a tailored exercise plan can be designed to help control diabetes.

Such a program should include:

  1. Type of exercise
  2. Mode of exercise
  3. Duration of each exercise
  4. Intensity levels
  5. Weekly frequency

People With Diabetes Don’t Exercise Enough

As reported by Reuters recently, the issue is that too few diabetes sufferers are being given this information. There is not enough encouragement at the moment to seriously incentivize exercise over expensive medications. There is an apparent bias against offering exercise therapies, and instead the medical industry looks to new and existing medications.

It has been reported that some doctors in the U.S. now prescribe exercise for various conditions, but experts believe that this is in need of expansion, that exercise should be a priority, not a sideline in treating diabetes and other life altering health conditions. Furthermore, exercise may actually protect against diabetes, and should be an integral part of preventative medicine according to the American Diabetes Association.

The Take Away Message

It is clear then that two things need to be understood:

  1. Type 2 diabetes can be controlled using exercise in some individuals, and even prevented in those at risk.
  2. More needs to be done to help promote this idea, reducing the need for expensive medications which may be less effective, and put increasing financial pressure on patients and medical institutes.

Have you used exercise to treat your diabetes? What sort of exercise program did you use? Did your doctor prescribe this to you? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this important issue, so please do leave your comments below.


For more information on Diabetes and Exercise, click here

Sripathi R. Kethu, M.D. FACG.
Latest posts by Sripathi R. Kethu, M.D. FACG. (see all)

Sripathi R. Kethu, M.D. FACG.

Dr Kethu is a Gastroenterologist in Dallas.

9 thoughts on “Exercise For Diabetes May Work Better Than Medication

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