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Can Exercise Help Manage Diabetes?

Can Exercise Help Manage Diabetes?

Almost 38 million adults in the United States have diabetes and that number has more than doubled in the last 20 years. Diabetes is the eighth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the No. 1 cause of kidney failure, lower limb amputations and adult blindness.

There is not yet a cure for diabetes, but there are still a number of ways to combat it. Besides losing weight and eating healthy food, being physically active has proven to be a positive factor in managing this chronic condition.

“Exercise has many, many benefits,” said Lina Huang, PharmD, BC-ADM, and a specialist in diabetes education at Washington Hospital. “Any physical exercise will be helpful. That doesn’t necessarily mean going to the gym. Some people may not be able to do vigorous exercise. Simply walking in the neighborhood, gardening or other easy forms of exercise are all very good.”

She mentioned that losing weight, lowering stress levels, and developing strong muscles all result from physical activity and are useful in managing diabetes because exercise helps maintain or even improve blood sugar levels.

Community members will soon have the opportunity to join an online Health & Wellness seminar presented by Huang. “Managing Diabetes with Exercise” will be a livestream event on Washington Hospital’s Facebook and YouTube pages on Wednesday, March 20, at 2 p.m. The following day, the full presentation will be available for viewing on Washington Hospital’s YouTube channel,

Explaining diabetes begins with how your body breaks down the food you eat into sugar, or glucose, which then flows into the bloodstream. When blood sugar goes up, the pancreas releases insulin, which lets the blood sugar into your cells to be used as energy.

Diabetes doesn’t allow your body to make enough insulin, or you can’t use it as well. When there isn’t enough insulin, too much blood sugar stays in your bloodstream and that can cause health problems.

Huang reiterated that lifestyle modifications as well as incorporating exercise into a typical routine can lead to positive results managing diabetes. She said it may only take a few steps to start showing improvement.

“By maintaining a healthy lifestyle, we can sometimes manage the disease, delay its onset or slow down its progression,” she emphasized, noting that recent scientific data shows an even greater recognition of the benefits of exercise.

“If you enjoy walking, do at least 150 minutes a week,” Huang suggested. “It doesn’t have to be all at once. Try walking 30 minutes a day, maybe after dinner. The goal is to reach moderate intensity when you walk. Not everybody can, but the best way to make sure is the ‘talk test’ during the activity. If you can speak easily, you’re not pushing yourself.” Huang continued, “There are many benefits to being active and not sedentary, even when watching television. Every now and then, just stand up and move around.”

Washington Hospital offers the advantage of a multidisciplinary team in its Outpatient Diabetes Center. It includes a registered dietitian, a registered nurse and a pharmacist certified in advanced diabetes management. Their mission is to give patients the ability to control diabetes for a lifetime. The focus is on teaching how to manage their disease, because research shows self-management education is an effective approach to preventing, delaying and even reversing complications from diabetes. Patients need a physician referral for the diabetes education program.

“Diabetes is a lifetime condition,” Huang noted. “We offer not just education and problem solving, but also emotional support because there’s a lot of stress involved in managing diabetes.”

To learn more about the diabetes education and treatment programs at Washington Hospital and Washington Hospital Healthcare System, visit or call 510.818.6556. For additional information about this and other upcoming Health & Wellness seminars, go to or call 800.963.7070.