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Diabetes Educators Don’t Sell Exercise Well Enough

Exercise has always been prescribed as a companion therapy to insulin, drug, or diet therapy in individuals with type 1 and 2 diabetes, yet, in the past two decades, the importance of exercise has been reexamined time and time again.

Just What The Doctor Ordered

According to a study published in the December 1998 issue of the Canadian Journal of Diabetes Care, a team of researchers from The Center for Activity and Aging at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, evaluated the current practices of diabetes educators. Twelve diabetes educators were asked a series of questions to describe their patients’ characteristics. The patients were mostly female, and ranged in age from 41 to 72. Seventy-eight percent of the patients were reportedly overweight, and 68 percent were sedentary.

Fifty-eight percent of the educators said that they recommended exercise for their patients, compared to 92 percent who recommended diet therapy and 67 percent who recommended intense blood glucose monitoring. Other recommendations included self-care (42 percent), insulin therapy (33 percent) and oral medications (8 percent). Of all the therapy recommendations, the educators said that their patients were least likely to follow exercise regimens even though they championed its benefits (i.e., weight loss, improved blood glucose and decreased cardiovascular risk).

In a companion study, 21 diabetes patients in two focus groups were asked to discuss the benefits of exercise as a means to control their diabetes. Both focus groups seemed to agree that controlling blood sugar is the primary benefit of exercise, while others felt that it was a good way to relieve stress, control weight and reduce depression. Other groups said that their physicians encouraged exercise, but rarely outlined a specific exercise regimen. Several participants agreed that exercising three times a week was sufficient for controlling their diabetes, but others emphasized that daily exercise was necessary. Walking seemed to be the preferred type of exercise, but others said they mowed the lawn, played with grandchildren and danced for exercise.

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