Dr Manny's Notes

Treating chronic disease with exercise

Those of you not getting enough daily physical activity should focus on exercising more outside of work.

Those of you not getting enough daily physical activity should focus on exercising more outside of work.  (iStock)

The human body is not made to sit in an office all day. Not everyone can work at a job requiring manual labor, however, and these sit-down careers often accomplish great things. Those of you not getting enough daily physical activity should focus on exercising more outside of work. In doing so, you’ll be preventing many health problems, and even treating chronic diseases like diabetes.

According to one study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found a direct correlation between diabetes and exercise. Of those who participated in the study, one out of ten diabetics who exercised regularly could forgo his prescribed medications.

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In fact, new guidelines on several chronic conditions recommend trying exercise first. When you think about all the normal benefits of exercise, you can easily understand why it helps. Exercise improves endurance, builds muscle, burns fat, and increases flexibility—all factors that lessen symptoms of certain diseases.

Chronic Conditions

Although exercise provides a well-rounded arsenal of benefits to everyone, it can prevent and treat several chronic diseases specifically. The following is a list of some of these conditions and how they are improved through exercise:

Diabetes

In the case of diabetes, diabetics who exercise regularly build muscle, making them less likely to store extra glucose as fat. The exercise also lowers glucose in the blood and improves insulin sensitivity, important factors in helping diabetics control their glucose levels.

Diabetics should exercise most days of the week, alternating medium- and high-intensity exercise. Recently, the American Diabetes Association gave new guidelines for diabetics during sedentary periods.

Now, the ADA is recommending that diabetics get moving every half hour, doing small exercises like torso twists and arm or leg extensions. This recommendation will help people to still manage glucose levels during times of inactivity.

Asthma

Another chronic disease that exercise can actually help improve is asthma. Many people have the impression that exercise may cause asthma attacks. However, attacks induced by exercise only happen when people do not understand or manage their asthma properly.

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Also, cold weather does affect the frequency of asthma attacks. Those with asthma may need to move their exercise indoors during the winter months.   

On the other hand, several small studies have shown that exercise improves asthma symptoms. The exercise can help to strengthen a person’s lungs, preventing attacks from happening as often.

To find out the effects of exercise on asthma, researchers from the Cochrane Collaboration explored 19 different studies. In each of these studies, participants exercised at least twenty minutes each day for three days per week. As a result, participants experienced fewer asthmatic symptoms than those who did not exercise.

Arthritis

Again, you may also be surprised that exercise lessens pain related to arthritis. Those suffering from the condition may find movement in arthritic joints difficult. Still, they should make an effort.

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Regular exercise loosens and flexes the joints stiffened by arthritis, making movement easier over time. It also strengthens the muscles around the joint, helping those muscles to provide adequate support. If these muscles do not stay strong, the poor support will worsen the arthritis.

The Mayo Clinic recommends performing a variety of exercises, including range-of-motion exercises and strength training. Those with arthritis may also benefit from gentle exercises like yoga.

With all the rewards that exercise has to offer, every person should implement a strong workout routine, especially those suffering chronic diseases. They will experience lessened symptoms and may even get to forgo their medications. As a result, these people will find more freedom with these conditions than they ever thought possible.

This article first appeared on AskDrManny.com.