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Moderate exercise can go a long way in managing diabetes

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July 10, 2011|By Jeannine Stein Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Moderate exercise, such as swimming, can help manage the symptoms of diabetes by improving insulin resistance.
Moderate exercise, such as swimming, can help manage the symptoms of diabetes… (Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles…)

With diabetes rates rising, it's important to learn how to prevent the disease as well as help control symptoms. Learn how exercise can benefit those with diabetes during a live web chat Monday at 11 a.m. PDT with Dr. Ruchi Mathur. Mathur is director of the diabetes program in the division of endocrinology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and is an endocrinologist at the facility's Weight Loss Center.

"Exercise is important in general to maintain a healthy lifestyle," Mathur said, "and for diabetics as well. The main thing we think about with the disease is blood sugar control, and exercise helps with that. Beyond that, it keeps your cardiovascular system strong, your joints mobile and helps lower cholesterol."

More specifically, she added, exercise reduces insulin resistance, making it easier for the body to bring glucose into the cells and utilize it as fuel. "That effect can even be sustained for hours after aerobic activity."

That doesn't mean people have to kill themselves with long, arduous workouts. "Moderate exercise is what's recommended," she said. "A lot of people with diabetes, particularly Type 2, have other health problems and we don't want to push those patients too much." Getting on a regular, sustainable program is the objective -- Mathur said to think of it more as a marathon than a sprint.

Setting a target of 150 minutes of exercise a week is a good goal, and that can be achieved through walking, dancing or swimming.

Although cardiovascular activity is essential for raising the heart rate and improving insulin resistance, strength training as well as yoga and Pilates can be added to the mix.

"If you can do yoga and add in three days of walking to get your heart rate up, that's an awesome way to start an exercise program," she said.

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