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Exercise and glycemic control in diabetes: benefits, challenges, and adjustments to pharmacotherapy.

Physical Therapy 2008 November
Exercise, along with dietary intervention, represents first-line therapy for diabetes mellitus. Aerobic exercise is recommended for its beneficial effects on glucose control as well as its abilities to retard the progression of other comorbidities common in patients with diabetes, such as cardiovascular disease. The capability of aerobic exercise to improve glycemic control in diabetes is well documented, although adherence to exercise regimens is problematic. More recently, the glucose-lowering effects of resistance training have also been documented; this form of exercise has additional benefits, such as the capability to counteract sarcopenia, which is common in older people with type 2 diabetes. Exercise in people with diabetes, however, also can present significant challenges to glycemic control. Excessive glucose lowering can occur under certain conditions, enhancing the threat of hypoglycemia; in other situations, hyperglycemia can be accentuated. An understanding of the interactions between specific antidiabetic medications and various forms and intensities of exercise is essential to optimizing glycemic control while minimizing the potential for acute derangements in plasma glucose levels. Exogenous forms of insulin and agents that stimulate insulin secretion in a glucose-independent manner (such as sulfonylureas and glinides) increase the propensity for hypoglycemia during low- to moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. In contrast, exercise protocols characterized by high intensity are more likely to result in episodes of hyperglycemia. Strategies to minimize inappropriate swings in glycemic control are reviewed.

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