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Keep Moving: One More Way To Manage Diabetes


A study published in 2015 found more than half of American adults had diabetes or pre-diabetes in 2012. Managing the disease usually involves medication, especially insulin. But exercise can also be effective - even preventive at times. 

KERA spoke with Dr. Luigi Meneghini, Executive Director of the Global Diabetes Program at Parkland Hospital System and a professor in Internal Medicine at U-T Southwestern Medical Center.  

Interview Highlights: 

How exercise can help with diabetes:

“Exercise (some type of physical activity) and lifestyle changes have shown to be very effective at delaying or preventing the progression of pre-diabetes to diabetes – even more so than medications. There’s also resistance training or exercises that improve your muscle mass and, also, your stability. For example, lifting some light weights, doing some yoga, using elastic bands. All of those increase muscle mass, increase tone and help you become healthier because you become more stable and less prone to falls. And having the lean muscle mass make you better able to use the insulin that’s in your body. Lean muscle is a great user of glucose. If I have a lot of fat versus less muscle, I don’t use glucose effectively for the same amount of insulin that’s in circulation. If I have a lot of lean muscle mass versus less fat, when I’m physically active, I use that glucose much more effectively for energy.”

Does having Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes make a difference in the exercise you choose or the benefit derived from it?

“With Type 2 diabetes, exercise can actually help improve the ability of individuals to control their blood sugar. With Type 1 diabetes, it’s a little bit trickier because exercise doesn’t really improve their ability to control their blood sugar. It makes them healthier. But it also – because they inject insulin at various times – may make it more difficult for them to control blood sugar.”

Can exercise help you avoid medication for diabetes?

“With healthy lifestyle, with healthier food intake, with physical activity, you may be able to control the disease or complications of the disease with less medications, and that’s huge.”

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Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.