One particular study at Duke University looked at what the effects of exercise alone would be compared to the process described above. It included 150 people with prediabetes who were divided into four groups. One group followed a gold-standard program that included a low-fat, low-calorie diet and moderate-intensity exercise equivalent to 7.5 miles of brisk walking a week. The other participants were assigned to one of three exercise groups: low amount at moderate intensity equivalent to walking briskly for 7.5 miles a week; high amount at moderate intensity equal to walking briskly for 11.5 miles weekly; and high amount at vigorous intensity equivalent to jogging for 11.5 miles a week.
After six months, patients using the gold standard approach had an average 9 percent improvement in oral glucose tolerance -- a measure of how readily the body processes sugar and an indicator used to predict progression to diabetes. Among those who did exercise only, there was a 7 percent improvement in the moderate-intensity 11.5-mile group; a 5 percent improvement in the moderate-intensity, 7.5-mile group; and a 2 percent improvement in the vigorous-intensity 11.5-mile group.
Their results appeared to demonstrate that a high amount of moderate-intensity exercise alone provided nearly the same benefit on glucose tolerance that we see in the gold standard of fat and calorie restriction along with exercise. High-intensity exercise tends to burn glucose more than fat, while moderate-intensity exercise tends to burn fat more than glucose. Encouraging news, because even the addition of regular brisk walking for extended periods would add some benefit.
However, education here is key because exercise alone can make a difference, but it can’t make up for a poor quality diet (which usually is the main reason diabetes develops in the first place). Learning proper food choices so that the body can keep the sugars in a normal range AND help support healing and recovery from the exercise is the smartest approach. Not only will it help by keeping diabetes out of the picture, but it will also maximize your overall health on so many levels, you’ll be glad you made the extra effort!