An exciting study from Yale shows that intense exercise is far more effective in preventing and controlling diabetes than exercising at a leisurely pace (Journal of Applied Physiology, January 2006). That means that the diabetic who exercises hard enough to sweat and raises his heart rate above 80 percent of its maximum will be far less likely to suffer heart attacks, strokes, blindness, deafness, kidney failure and all the other terrible consequences of uncontrolled diabetes.
Inactive, healthy, non-obese women over 72 years of age were started in training programs of hard (80 percent of aerobic capacity), moderate (65 percent) and easy (50 percent). All three groups did the same amount of work, burning 300 calories per session. The intense group had a great improvement in their ability to use sugar and suppress fat formation, while the low intensity group had little benefit.
That means that intense exercise can help to both prevent and treat diabetes. The most tissue damage occurs immediately after eating when blood sugar levels rise the highest. After you eat, sugar goes from the intestines into the bloodstream. The only places that sugar can be stored are in your muscles and liver. When your muscles are not exercised, they are full of sugar and sugar has no place to go after it enters your bloodstream. On the other hand, when your muscles are exercised, they empty their stored sugar. Then when you eat, sugar can go from the intestines into the bloodstream and then immediately into the muscles, preventing a high rise in blood sugar.
The important news from this study is that the more intensely you exercise, the greater the protection from developing diabetes and the better the control of your diabetes if you already have it. A word of caution: 75 percent of diabetics die from heart disease and some people can suffer heart attacks during intense exercise, so check with your doctor first.
Dr. Gabe Mirkin has been a radio talk show host for 25 years and practicing physician for more than 40 years; he is board certified in four specialties, including sports medicine. Read or listen to hundreds of his fitness and health reports at http://www.DrMirkin.com
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