By Eileen Johnson

I have always enjoyed a moderately active lifestyle that included lifting free weights, walking, and swimming. This was fine until about a year ago when I developed an interest in setting higher exercise goals for myself. I joined a gym where I could receive good instruction and push my endurance. I saw a physical therapist to help me understand what exercises would help me overcome some old injuries and protect my joints.   This is when I became excited to learn more about the effects of exercise on the health of the body; in particular, decreasing the risk for type 2 diabetes.

I heard a talk recently given by Shane O’Connor, MS, Medical Exercise Specialist and co-founder of “Integrated Medical Fitness” in New Rochelle, New York. Here are some of the benefits he mentioned of adding exercise to your diabetes prevention/treatment plan:

  • “Exercise is the key to long-term management of most medical conditions”
  • Exercise combined with diet results in better weight loss than diet alone
  • Slow metabolism (and consequent weight gain) can be caused by a decrease in lean muscle tissue. Added muscle makes you a better calorie burner.
  • Muscles that are exercising take in and use up glucose, thus lowering blood sugar and sugars that are stored in the liver.
  • Insulin levels in Type 2 diabetes can be very high in the initial stages. This can result in increased fat deposits and an inability of the body to use and burn fat deposits. Good news – Exercise can decrease high insulin levels.
  • The duration of an exercise session is important. During the first 5-10 minutes of exercise, the body burns glycogen stores, sugars stored in muscle and the liver. After that, it burns free fatty acids. High levels of free fatty acids in the blood, like those found in obesity, could play a part in the beginning stages of Type 2 Diabetes.

Doctor Oz has some helpful tips also regarding exercise and diabetes prevention:

  • Even small amounts of exercise will be helpful at first. He suggests pushing yourself harder a little at a time
  • Exercise promotes a protein in the body that helps insulin to do its work
  • It is important to raise your heart rate during exercise. The average goal is to reach 50-85% of your maximum heart rate. Maximum is determined by subtracting your age from 220. (For instance – you are 50 years old. Your maximum would be 170 and your aim would be 85-145 beats per minute).
  • Yoga also increases the muscles ability to take in glucose and lower blood sugar! It also can decrease the stress hormones that promote belly fat and interrupt the secretion of insulin.


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