Exercise: Prescription for Prevention
Doctors have long recommended exercise as a way to help control diabetes (including Type 1 diabetes, which is usually diagnosed in young people). But in recent years studies have offered strong evidence that physical activity may actually help prevent Type 2 diabetes.
Exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce body fat, which in turn reduces the risk of diabetes. But the protective effect of exercise against diabetes is due only in part to its effect on weight control.
Exercise makes the body more sensitive to insulin's action, so blood sugar is controlled better. Physical activity also tends to reduce abdominal fat, which is associated with early metabolic changes that can lead to diabetes. It's well known that a loss of abdominal fat boosts insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance, both of which reduce the risk of diabetes. In addition, physical activity enhances the entire series of metabolic events by which your body uses glucose.
The exercise does not have to be strenuous; the point is to not be sedentary. But you do have to exercise regularly to reduce your risk of diabetes, since the effects on glucose and insulin last only a few days at most.
It's best to do activities that work a variety of muscle groups. But any increase in activity improves your odds against diabetes - as well as against other related "diseases of civilization," namely hypertension and heart disease. You can't change some things that put you at risk, such as family history of diabetes or advancing age, but staying active is up to you.
The Complete Home Wellness Handbook
John Edward Swartzberg, M.D., F.A.C.P., Sheldon Margen, M.D., and the editors of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter
Updated by Remedy Health Media