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September 27, 2011 > When It Comes to Diabetes, Fitness Matters

When It Comes to Diabetes, Fitness Matters

Exercise can provide substantial benefits for people with diabetes. Several long-term studies have demonstrated that regular exercise improves the body's metabolism of carbohydrates and increases the body's sensitivity to insulin - the hormone that helps regulate blood glucose levels. In addition, exercise can enhance weight loss and promote proper weight maintenance - which are important factors in managing diabetes, too.

"Regular exercise has consistently been shown to be an effective tool for managing diabetes," says Ivar Blomquist, MS, an exercise physiologist in the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Washington Hospital. Cardiac Rehabilitation offers special diabetic exercise sessions as part of its services.

"After 20 to 30 minutes of exercise at a moderately difficult level, your body becomes more sensitive to insulin for about 72 hours, which helps lower your blood sugar level," he explains. "Losing weight, if you need to, can also make your body use insulin more effectively. Exercising to control diabetes also can reduce your risks for heart disease and strokes, since diabetes can be a contributing factor in cardiovascular disease."

To help people learn more about the benefits of exercise for people with diabetes and to offer guidance in making exercise a regular part of your daily routine, Blomquist will be presenting a Diabetes Matters lecture on "Making Diabetes a Good Fit for Health" on Thursday, October 6. The lecture begins at 7 p.m. and will be followed by a group discussion from 8 to 9 p.m. for those who wish to participate. The free Diabetes Matters session will be held in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont. No registration is required.

"People who are not used to exercising regularly should consult their doctors before starting a new exercise program," Blomquist says. "It's important to start slowly and gradually work your way up to harder levels of exercise. We generally follow the guidelines of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Their basic recommendations for healthy adults under age 65 call for moderately intense cardiovascular exercise for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, or vigorously intense cardio exercise for 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week. In addition, they recommend strength-training exercises twice a week."

In addition to the ACSM guidelines, the staff in Cardiac Rehabilitation uses a "Rate of Perceived Exertion Scale" that measures the patients' own perceptions of how hard they're working.

"We also watch each person's pulse rate, trying to get them to work at 75 percent of their maximum heart rate," Blomquist adds. "The structure of each person's exercise routine depends on what shape they're in, including what shape their joints are in. We help people establish their fitness goals and encourage them to exercise regularly throughout their lives. We also provide instruction in the proper way to exercise. If you go into an exercise program too vigorously or haphazardly, there's a greater chance of injury, and you may lose interest. Exercise needs to be fun and enjoyable."

Blomquist, who has worked in the hospital's Cardiac Rehabilitation Program for 20 years, also counsels patients on weight loss. "I believe in the old 'calories in vs. calories out' philosophy," he notes. "If you use more calories than you eat, the chances are good that you'll lose weight."

Participation in the diabetes exercise program in Cardiac Rehabilitation requires a physician referral. The cost is $8.50 per session.

"You don't need to be a cardiac patient to take part in our diabetes exercise sessions," Blomquist emphasizes. "People with diabetes are at a higher risk for heart disease, and our goal is to help people lower their risks."

Diabetes Matters is a free, monthly diabetes education class followed by group discussions. For more information on Diabetes Matters, visit For more information about the diabetes exercise sessions in the Cardiac Rehabilitation program, call (510) 494-7022.

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