Exercise prescriptions could significantly improve the health of people with type 2 diabetes, according to a Canadian study.
Doctor-delivered step count prescriptions, combined with the use of pedometer, were found to lower blood sugar levels and insulin resistance, and increase daily steps by 20 per cent.
Researchers from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) conducted this study to see if it led to greater adherence to exercise.
They cited that some studies showed regular physical activity to reduce mortality and vascular issues in people with type 2 diabetes by 40 per cent, but many do not achieve this.
Dr Kaberi Dasgupta, a physician researcher at the RI-MUHC and principal author of the study, said: “As physicians, we have to face reality and admit that for many patients, just telling them to be more physically active simply doesn’t work.
“A lot of people want to be active, but it is very difficult to change health behaviors. The idea in this study is to use step counts almost as a medication.”
More than 350 people took part in the study, which involved 74 doctors from hospitals around Montreal.
Participants were either asked to carry on with their usual diabetes medication or given a step count prescription with a pedometer.
The trial was carried out across a year and at the end, those who had been given the walking prescriptions had walked 1,200 more steps a day, on average.
Those with type 2 diabetes who had upped their daily walking routine had lower blood sugar levels and their insulin resistance had improved.
“Our physical activity is often divided throughout our day, so measuring distance can be complicated. With step counting, it is easier to quantify your daily physical activity, especially for people who do not run or go to the gym,” said Dasgupta.
“If we want doctors to prescribe physical activities, it needs to be aligned and integrated in the medical routine and added to health guidelines, which we plan on doing in the near future.”
The results have been published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism.

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