Tailored Exercise Routine Can Beat Diabetes
Exercise helps beat diabetes and other chronic diseases as effectively as medications and surgery, according to major new research.
“Similar to surgery, exercise is not a single entity and must be tailored to the condition,” says Dr. Tammy Hoffmann, professor of clinical epidemiology at Australia’s Bond University, who led the study.
“If exercise interventions are not implemented in a manner consistent with how they were used in trials . . . clinicians and patients can’t expect outcomes similar to those achieved in trials. Simply prescribing exercise, in a generic sense, to a patient is insufficient guidance and unlikely to achieve desired outcomes.”
Her team’s work was published last month in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. It included an analysis of 133 trials of exercise in many countries, revealing countless doctors do not suggest exercise because they do not know which activities will work.
“Many doctors and their patients are not aware that exercise is a treatment for these chronic conditions and can provide as much benefit as drugs or surgery — typically with fewer harms,” Dr. Hoffmann said in an interview. “Unless clinicians can access sufficient details about exercise interventions to prescribe them, they either guess how to use them or do not use them at all.”
Exercise is an effective but neglected treatment for many chronic conditions including diabetes.
Dr. Hoffmann recommends finding a doctor who is knowledgeable about the benefits of exercise therapy. “Some exercises can be prescribed by family physicians while others need referrals to physiotherapists or other health professionals who have specific expertise,” she explains.
These health professionals know what exercises work for particular ailments, what will not help, what is harmful, and whether exercising should be supervised or done at home.
She adds: “It’s important patients receive proper assessment by physicians before starting exercise programs.”
Exhaustive analysis of studies found conditions responding best to exercise therapy include the following:
- Type 2 diabetes: Exercise can reduce glycemic index (GI) levels that correlate with blood sugar levels. The GI rates carbohydrates according to their effect on blood glucose levels. Diabetics have too much sugar in their blood for prolonged periods. “Evidence supports aerobic exercise, progressive resistance training, or a combination of the two . . . for the improvement of glycemic control,” Dr. Hoffmann’s team reports.
- Osteoarthritis of knees and hips: Studies show supervised resistance training can help ease symptoms of osteoarthritis and patients are advised to progress gradually. Exercise can pain and improve functioning. “It’s important patients understand osteoarthritis isn’t a wear-and-tear disease and that discomfort or pain during exercise doesn’t indicate further damage to joints,” Dr. Hoffmann observes. Supervised exercise along with an at-home program is customary.
- Low back pain: Supervised exercises have been shown to strengthen trunk muscles and overcome physical impairments. “The most commonly reported adverse effect is temporary exacerbation of the back pain,” Dr. Hoffman notes.
- Pulmonary diseases: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a catch-all term describing lung conditions encompassing emphysema and bronchitis along with some forms of asthma and bronchiectasis. It’s characterized by severe breathlessness. Low-impact and moderate exercise programs can help, as long as they do not overtax patients.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome: Exercise programs have been successful in combating fatigue by “gradually re-engage the person in physical activity” The researchers recommend exercise be supervised by a “trained exercise therapist, such as a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist, who has had training and experience . . . in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome.”
In addition to combating these conditions, exercise has been shown to prevent serious falls in older adults that can lead to life-threatening injuries and bone breaks.
“Well-designed exercise programs can prevent falls in . . . older adults. Effective programs include a focus on improving balance,” Dr. Hoffman says. “There’s a risk that an older adult may fall while exercising . . . Undertaking balance exercises near a firm support” is recommended.”
And of course always eat Real Food.
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