Study: Physicians need to be more vocal about encouraging diabetic patients to exercise

05/11/05

Saint Louis University research is published in 'diabetes care'

ST. LOUIS -- Diabetics are more likely to exercise if their doctors help them create and stick to a formalized exercise plan, according to new Saint Louis University research in the May issue of "Diabetes Care."

"Physician advice alone was not associated with regular physical activity. However, when a physician helped to make a plan for physical activity or followed up on the plan, we saw more physical activity," says Anjali Deshpande, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology at Saint Louis University School of Public Health and lead author on the study.

"If doctors realized how much of a difference they make when they speak with their diabetic patients about being physically active and help them follow through with a concrete plan, they probably would talk about exercise during appointments."

The physical environment in a patient's home town also appeared to influence whether or not a person with diabetes exercised, Deshpande found. Those who were physically active reported shorter walking times to parks, recreation centers, walking trails, schools and fitness clubs than did those who were not active.

The physically active group said they were more likely than those who were not active to take advantage of community facilities that encourage exercise, such as recreation centers, health clubs, walking trails, schools and parks.

Having an exercise partner, belonging to religious or community groups, feeling safe from crime and other social considerations did not influence physical activity patterns, she added.

The study analyzed telephone responses from 274 people with diabetes who lived in rural parts of southeastern Missouri, Tennessee and Arkansas. Of the sample, 37 percent reported they had no activity, 13 percent reported irregular activity and 50 percent reported regular physical activity.

Not surprisingly, those with regular physical activity were more likely to have no physical impairment and be of normal weight and better health status than those who were inactive.

The research is believed to be the first-population based study to assess the influence of social and environmental factors on the physical activity behavior of people who have diabetes and live in a rural area.

"Physical inactivity is a significant problem in rural diabetic populations," Deshpande said. "Understanding the role of the environment may result in increased physical activity for persons with diabetes."

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-- Robert Frost