DR. HOOK- Not so sweet: Exercise helps prevent diabetes

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups used to have a silly commercial—but an effective one. Two people would collide, and one person's chocolate would fall into the other person's peanut butter. (Or is it the other way around?)  

In our "blame-someone-else society" the two would argue, "Hey, you got chocolate in my peanut butter." "No, you got peanut butter on my chocolate." (Okay, just stop arguing and eat it.)  Mmmm, Tastes great!  Détente!

Some things are just meant to go together, but arguments, egos, and closed minds can tear them apart— like Wham, Sonny & Cher, the Eurythmics, Dick Cheney, and his hunting partner. Do exercise & diabetes fall into the same category?

November is Diabetes Awareness Month. In the U.S., over one million people have Type I diabetes (meaning their bodies do not produce any insulin), and over 20 million have Type II diabetes (their body produces insulin, but not enough because of resistance to it).

Because more kids are becoming obese, about 50 percent born after the year 2000 will likely develop Type II diabetes in their lifetime. If you aren't concerned by these numbers, you need to drink some coffee— pronto!

Exercise is the best medicine for diabetes control (well, after insulin in Type I diabetics who need it to live). And I'm not just talking. Think of this:  muscles act as a pantry to store the sugar. (Does that make Arnold Schwarzenegger a pantry?) In a 158-pound man, the muscles store about 1100kcal of glycogen (glucose molecules all linked together for storage purposes), and another 500kcal in the liver. That elderly lady from the Wendy's commercial would say, "Now there's the beef!"  

So how can you best use up all the calories stored in the muscles? Doing the 12 ounce-bicep curl with beer or soda isn't the answer. (Okay, you can stop booing me. It's the truth.)

Here are the benefits of exercise. When the muscles are working hard and eating up all the sugar for energy, the body's chemistry shifts to burn off fat. (Beats liposuction— though I'm sure people in Hollywood are screaming, "My ears! Oh, I'm melting!") Also, when you exercise, insulin allows sugar to enter the muscles for energy. With long term exercise, muscles become less resistant to insulin and allow the body to work more in harmony.

Even for those who don't lose weight, just walking an hour a day can greatly contribute to good diabetes management. But consistency with exercise is so vital. One study showed that benefits from exercise wane after 72 hours, so it's important to exercise every other day or at least every three days.  

Madonna sang, "Just one day out of life, It would be, It would be so nice." But I have a billion patients saying, "I haven't been able to exercise the past three years because the lint in my dryer keeps building up."

Most importantly, exercise is crucial for good cardiovascular health. Here's another Freddy Krueger scary piece of information. People with diabetes have the same risk of a heart attack as a person who already has had a heart attack. In particular, Type II diabetics are overweight/obese, so they tend to be pretty deconditioned and might already have heart disease. So a cardiac evaluation might be smart before embarking on an exercise regimen. But a diabetic person can reduce the risk significantly with consistent exercise.

Exercise equipment should be as popular and fun as iPods and Vera Bradley bags. I wish I could make diabetes  and exercise into something popular and eternal like a Reese's Peanut Butter cups. But you just can't buy good health in a vending machine. Learn the facts at diabetes.org.