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itness Programs for Special Populations
 
Special Populations and Exercise:
A New Era In Fitness

© Eric P. Durak MSc

Within that same year another study was published in the British medical journal, the Lancet, with essentially the same results as the University of California study, only this time in an entirely different group of people, using the same type of research methods. This ongoing investigation is called the Nurse's Health Study - which looks at health objectives in a sample of the nation's nurses, was the data base. Information was collected from this group over years to assess health status in these women. After comparing those who exercised regularly versus their sedentary counterparts, the same type of results appeared. Those who exercised had almost a 33 percent less incidence of acquiring diabetes over time, independent of other factors.

Almost a year after the first publication, the Physician's Health Study looked at exercising doctors and compared them with non-exercising counterparts. Again, those physicians who exercised at least 2 to 4 days per week had less incidence for diabetes development by about 30%, and those who exercised 5 or more days per week reduced their risk by 40%.

These series of investigations lend clear evidence to the concept of a protective effect of regular exercise in different population groups who may be at risk for developing disease over the course of their lifetimes. As scientists follow other groups of persons over years, we will learn more about the effects of exercise on mortality statistics, medical care, and enhanced quality of life for individuals.

Persons with diabetes should be concerned with keeping blood sugar levels at normal ranges throughout the day. They must avoid low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) due to prolonged exercise, as well. This balance is achieved through self blood sugar monitoring - using a small reflectance meter and sample of blood from a finger stick to keep track of sugar levels in the bloodstream. Self blood sugar monitoring is the cornerstone of good diabetes control, and may help avoid long term complications of the disease, such as blindness, gangrene, and heart disease.

Most exercises can be performed with diabetic persons, as long as self monitoring is part of their program. By knowing current sugar levels, they can safely plan the intensity and duration of their exercise. If they have had diabetes for longer than 10 years, lower impact exercises may be beneficial to guard against damaging feet, which may have some neuropathy (nerve damage). Consulting with personal physicians, and exercise specialists will produce individual exercises programs for improved health.

Medical populations
Exercise with medical patients started with cardiac rehabilitation. Patients were weaned into low intensity exercise programs using aerobic machines, later walking programs, and at the present, supervised exercise consisting of aerobics, weight training, and stretching programs. Their exercise options have grown as to what types of programs they can perform, and how it may effect their risk for cardiac abnormalities later in life. The goal for cardiac rehab programs to date is to reduce the incidence of recurrent heart problems in patients who have undergone bypass surgery, or had previous heart attacks.

For persons at risk, exercise may have an impact on reducing the occurrence, or severity of disease. What about persons who are already afflicted with a disease, such as high blood pressure?

One in four American has hypertension, and exercise has been studied as to its effects on blood pressure for over 25 years. Most persons who exercise regularly know that training raises blood pressure during the performance of the exercise itself. Many health professionals have been reluctant to tell their patients to exercise because of this fact.

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About The Author
Eric Durak received his Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan in 1986. His research experience is in the application of exercise for special population groups, such as diabetes, high risk pregnancy, cancer, and metabolic disorders. He has published scientific articles in journals such as: The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Diabetes Care, The......more
 
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