People with type 2 diabetes can make a significant improvement to their glucose control by getting just over 20 minutes of exercise a day.
It’s long been known that a healthy diet and exercise regimen is an important part of diabetes treatment. Yet most studies of exercise and diabetes have been small, so it’s been hard to see how much exercise people need, and which types of exercise are best.
In a new summary of the research, doctors pooled the data to get a better overall picture. The results were encouraging. Taking part in any exercise program that lasted at least 12 weeks improved glucose control.
Aerobic exercise (where you get out of breath and push your heart rate up) worked best, but resistance exercise (such as using weights) also worked well. More important than the type of exercise was the amount. Those people who exercised for at least two and a half hours a week (just over 20 minutes a day) showed the most impressive results.
The researchers said that the improvement in glucose control was about what you might see if you added a second glucose-control drug to someone’s medication.
Bottom line. Getting plenty of exercise makes a real difference to how well you can control your diabetes. If you take insulin, be sure you know how to adjust your dose before exercising, to avoid getting a hypoglycemic attack.
Physical activity advice only or structured exercise training and association with HbA1c levels in type 2 diabetes [Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)]
—Anna Sayburn, patient editor, BMJ Group
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