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Can exercise help treat diabetes?

In Sugar Nation, author Jeff O'Connell makes an irrefutable case that lifestyle changes are critical in combating a diagnosis of prediabetes or diabetes. While manipulating dietary choices is the logical place to begin in diabetes management, he stresses the importance of exercise as an essential element in combating the disease. "Along with a low-carb eating plan, a gym membership is the most potent antidote to type 2 diabetes," writes O'Connell.

He speaks with experts who identify high-intensity interval exercise (HIIT) as the preferred workout regimen to affect insulin sensitivity. HIIT is a style of training where you "alternate bursts of intense cardio exercise, like sprinting, with a more relaxed pace." While HIIT training demands greater exertion, it's also a workout that can be completed in shorter time than traditional cardio workouts.

James Timmons, PhD, a university researcher who studied HIIT's influence on diabetics, told the writer: "The intense contractions that fatigue muscle really break down carbohydrate stores in muscle as well. The muscles then become much more responsive to insulin as they attempt to replenish these stores." As O'Connell sums up: "[T]he latest studies suggest that the blood sugar benefits of high-intensity training don't just meet those of longer, steady-pace cardio sessions -- they exceed them."

Research has also found that exercise can deliver enormous benefits to diabetics even when sufferers fail to reach their weight-loss goals. "In the Diabetes Prevention Program, those subjects who didn't hit their target weight loss, yet did hit their target for exercise, still had a 44% reduction in diabetes risk relative to a placebo group."

Whatever type of workout program you engage in, do it as regularly as you would take a medication for diabetes. It's that powerful.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.