Importance of Walking
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"I believe walking is so important that I
call it 'my most important diabetes pill,' " explains Usman Ahmad, MD.
Ahmad, a diabetologist for over 30 years and
chair of the Department of Medicine as well as director of the Diabetes Center
at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center-McKeesport, was diagnosed with
type 2 diabetes in September 2002. "I was expecting it. Both my mother and my
father have diabetes," he says.
Ahmad, age 58, walks at least three miles a
day three times a week. "Sometimes I do power walking on an inclined treadmill
carrying a weight."
He also does muscle toning and stretching
exercises twice a week. "But no body building," he adds.
"Of course, I didn't start any of this until
my doctor gave me a thorough exam and cleared me for the exercises. Even though
I am a diabetologist myself, I followed my own advice when I was diagnosed:
Find a doctor you trust, then do what he or she says. We diabetologists do the
same things we tell our patients to do."
Fat To Flat
Two years ago, Ahmad's AlC was 11.3 (Your
A-1-C is a blood sugar check "with a memory." It tells you your average blood
sugar for the past two to three months. The longer your A-1-C is near your
target, the less risk you have for complications. Even if your A-1-C is higher
than your target, lowering it by even one point will reduce your risk. If your
number is 7 or higher, you may need a change in your diabetes care.) "But now
it is under six. The ADA target number is seven or below," he explains.
Although Ahmad's doctor put him on insulin
for several weeks when he was first diagnosed, he now takes metformin and
rosiglitazone. "But I am sure that the walking is the most important factor in
bringing my AlC into normal range," he adds.
Walking has not only helped Ahmad, who is 5'
11'', drop from 184 to 166 pounds; it has also helped bring his blood pressure
and cholesterol under control.
"And walking has helped me go from having a
fat belly-some people call it apple shaped-to a flat belly. A belly that sticks
out like an apple is carrying a lot of fat. That's the most dangerous shape
belly to have, especially if you have diabetes or heart disease," Ahmad
"But there is hope. I have been flat bellied
for over a year. I am sure the walking is responsible for that, too. And you
don't have to be a power walker to gain the benefits. just keep walking."
Only one thing has interfered with Ahmad's
successful walking program: he doesn't enjoy walking on a treadmill.
"For me, walking inside is one of the most
boring things you can do. I walk outside when weather permits, but when I have
to walk on the treadmill, I put it in front of the TV and choose programs I
really like. That way, the time goes by quickly and it's almost fun.
"But just in case I get lazy, I have
requested my wife, Ellen, not to give me supper unless I have had my 'walking
"I also have the support of my
college-student son, Adam, and my daughter, Leena, a third-year medical
student." Ahmad adds that Leena has gone from being his "fashion policewoman"
to his exercise guru.
"I choose my shoes carefully. Shoes should
be very comfortable, maybe even one size larger than usual. For me, a soft
leather shoe is worth the extra money. And I pick cotton socks that have good,
thick padding on the sole.
"Then I keep checking to be sure that the
sole of the shoe doesn't become hardened. It must remain soft and flexible so
it doesn't rub or cause blisters anywhere."
Ahmad adds, "Always keep in mind that your
health is your responsibility. Follow your doctor's advice. Get a little book
and keep written records of your weight, blood glucose, blood pressure, AlC,
"And remember, all of these are helped by
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