In a 1995 study, Japanese researchers prescribed just dietary changes for some type 2 diabetics and the same dietary changes plus walking (10,000 steps a day) for others. Compared with the controls, who made no diet or exercise changes, both the diet and diet-exercise groups lost weight and became less insulin-resistant. But the exercise group lost significantly more weight and saw their insulin resistance and blood sugar levels plummet.
In most of the studies, walking has been the activity of choice. Most experts recommend brisk walking for at least 30 minutes a day. But the type of exercise is much less important than the commitment to doing it regularly, ideally daily. Harvard researchers followed the health of more than 14,000 alumni for several decades. The more they exercised, the less likely they were to develop diabetes—even if they were overweight and had close relatives with the disease.
San Francisco-based writer Michael Castleman is the author of 12 consumer health books, including The New Healing Herbs (Rodale, 2001).
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