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The Importance of Walking

From eDiets - The online diet, fitness, and healthy living resource

"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 explains.

"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 pill.'

"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.

Shoes

"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 cholesterol.

"And remember, all of these are helped by walking."

(C) 2004 Diabetes Forecast. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

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