Exercise More Difficult for People With Type 2 Diabetes

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Women with Type 2 diabetes experience physical effects that make exercise more difficult, according to new research out of the University of Colorado. An estimated 29 million people in the United States are living with Type 2, and another 86 million have prediabetes and are at increased risk of developing the condition.

Physical activity is known to have a wide variety of health benefits, including improving blood sugar control, burning fat, and improving heart health. In spite of this, many people who have Type 2 diabetes are sedentary.

To evaluate why this might be the case, researchers looked at 54 overweight women — 26 with Type 2 diabetes and 28 without — between the ages of 50 and 75 who reported doing less than one hour of exercise per week. (Women were studied because they are typically more impacted by the effects of Type 2 diabetes on physical activity and heart health than men.) All of the participants pedaled on a stationary bike at a low to moderate level of intensity, similar to what is required to walk one mile in 25 minutes. While they were exercising, the women reported how hard they were working while also having blood drawn to measure their lactate levels (an indication of effort that increases with the level of exertion).

Compared to the women without Type 2 diabetes, those with the condition reported working much harder to complete the exercise and also had significantly higher levels of lactate. According to the researchers, this suggests that common physical activities such as climbing stairs feel more difficult to people who have Type 2 diabetes.

Although the study did not determine the exact cause of the findings, possible explanations include that people with diabetes cannot convert the nutrients from their food into fuel for their muscles as easily and that their bodies do not respond properly to exercise by, for example, redirecting blood flow to the muscles being used.

These findings are important for helping people with Type 2 diabetes find a form of exercise that won’t leave them exhausted.

“If possible, all adults should gradually increase their activity to target at least 30 minutes of activity on most days, as this leads to many major health benefits. It’s fine if people reach these goals in short intervals, such as 10-minute brisk walks,” noted study author Amy Huebschmann, MD, MS.

For more information, read the article “Type 2 diabetes patients find exercise more difficult, says study” or see the study’s abstract in the journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care. And to learn how to make physical activity more enjoyable, see the piece “Making Exercise More Fun,” by exercise physiologist and certified diabetes educator Richard Weil.

If you are or are the parent of an adolescent or teen with Type 1 diabetes, you may be interested in a study that is currently recruiting participants. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to learn more.