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Exercise is medicine for people with diabetes or kidney disease

Interval workouts before meals and regular walks help most, studies show

Published: May 25, 2014 12:00 PM

Photo: Mike Watson Images

You’ve probably heard that exercise is the best medicine. And now two new studies prove that’s really true, at least for two serious and growing problems: diabetes and kidney disease.

In the first report, researchers found that vigorous activity, but not moderate exercise, helped reduce blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance, a condition in which the body has trouble regulating blood sugar. Those who participated in brief interval workouts—meaning they alternated between bursts of intense activity and slower recovery periods—before breakfast, lunch and dinner reduced post-meal blood sugar levels by 12 percent. The effect persisted through the next day. Walking at a moderate pace for 30 minutes before dinner, on the other hand, didn’t lower blood sugar.

Researchers speculate that high-intensity exercise may be better at improving insulin sensitivity, helping to stabilize blood sugar levels, according to the study, which was published in the journal Diabetologia. That’s important, because controlling post-meal blood sugar spikes may help ward off type 2 diabetes as well as related complications, including heart disease. A bonus? Brief, intense workouts may be easier to incorporate into your daily routine than longer ones.

In a second study, which was published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, researchers found that chronic kidney disease patients who walked regularly were 33 percent less likely to die and 21 percent less likely to need dialysis or a kidney transplant. This was true regardless of whether they had other medical conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes. The more the patients walked, the more they benefited: Those who did so seven or more times per week were 59 percent less likely to die during the study and 44 percent less likely to need dialysis or a transplant.

— Deborah Pike Olsen

Learn more about cost-effective drug choices for diabetes and kidney disease from the medical experts at Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs.

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