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Study finds consensus: Exercise helps people with diabetes

Focus on exercise alone makes greater improvement than diet and medicine

Diabetes is often called a lifestyle disease, and now a new study from the University of Missouri-Columbia verifies that a lifestyle change brings strong improvements.

People with diabetes who attended classes to help them increase their exercise had more significant improvements than people who focused on trying to change exercise, diet modification and medication at the same time.

"In studies that focused on exercise only, blood glucose improved twice as much as in studies that focused on exercise, diet and medication adherence," said Vicki Conn, professor and associate dean of research in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing.

The meta-analysis considered data from 10,455 subjects in 103 research reports. No previous meta-analysis has compared exercise-only interventions with interventions including multiple diabetes self-management behaviors. Complications from diabetes are serious and can include: heart attacks, kidney disease or limb amputation.

"One thing we found was that it doesn't matter how overweight you are or how poor your current blood glucose is at the start of the studies, the improvements from exercise were equal across the board," Conn said.

The study also found that women did not improve as much as men. However, both young and older adults had similar benefits from the physical activity intervention.

"The censuses among these studies could mean that it is easier for people to focus on one thing at a time. It is easy for people to get overwhelmed when asked to make too many changes," Conn said.

The study was recently published in Diabetologia. The study was co-authored by David Mehr, professor in the MU School of Medicine, and Joseph LeMaster, assistant professor in the MU School of Medicine.

Jennifer Faddis | EurekAlert!
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