Diabetes Patients Should Move More

Anyone diagnosed with diabetes has very likely been told the importance of exercise as one method of gaining better blood glucose control helping to reduce complications associated with their disease such as neuropathy, heart or kidney disease and as a means of achieving weight loss.  The message has always been to get in some form of exercise on most days of the week which could include walking, jogging, bicycling, swimming, or whatever else a person enjoys participating in.

A new message recently released by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) has not strayed from its’ recommendation of continuing to be physically active.  But the ADA has updated its’ physical activity message to “move even more” particularly for those with diabetes who may sit for prolonged periods of time. 

The old recommendation by the ADA was to achieve light physical activity for every 90 minutes of prolonged inactivity.  The new guidelines now recommend individuals with diabetes should do 3 or more minutes of light activity every 30 minutes during prolonged periods of sitting.  Prolonged sitting could be attributed to computer-related jobs, watching television or waiting around in an airport as examples. 

The new guidelines from the ADA have been published in the November issue of Diabetes Care and are based on a review of more than 180 studies along with advice and input from diabetes and exercise experts.

The emphasis in this updated message and guideline is on physical activity.  Physical activity includes all movement that increases calories burned whereas exercise is planned, structured, and repetitive bodily movement promoting or maintaining physical fitness.

The new guidelines do not take the place of regular exercise but are to be considered as an addition to what someone with diabetes should be doing for exercise.  For example, someone with diabetes may walk for 30 minutes before they go to work and then they have a desk job of working on the computer for 8 hours.  The updated message is that throughout the day while at work, this person should get up every 30 minutes and do some sort of physical activity for 3 minutes – it could doing a series of stretches, walk up a flight of stairs and back, walk up and down the hallway, or practice balancing on one foot. 

These small but effective movements are intended to break up long periods of time sitting to help improve better blood glucose management.  The new guidelines place an emphasis on a variety of physical activity that includes incorporating aerobic exercise, resistance training, flexibility, and balance training.  This same message is also meant to be used by women with gestational diabetes along with individuals who have been diagnosed with prediabetes.  In both of these groups combining physical activity along with healthy lifestyle changes can greatly reduce the risk of developing and progression of type 2 diabetes. 

To get started on reducing time spent sitting, here are some ideas from Joslin Diabetes Center on ways to increase physical activity throughout the day.