Error message here!

Lost your password? Please enter your email address. You will receive a link to create a new password.

Error message here!

Back to log-in

Alzheimer Concept.

Alzheimer’s Disease, Fitness and Exercise

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disease that strikes fear and terror into those who are getting on in years and family members who are in line to care for them. According to the Alzheimer’s Disease Foundation, in 2015 it is estimated that 5.3 million Americans have the disease. It is the 6th leading cause of death behind heart disease, strokes, and cancer but it is the only one that cannot be prevented (1) although some experts now estimate that it may be the third highest (2).


If You Can’t Beat It, Use It: An Exercise Guide to Post-Joint Replacement Wellness

It all started over 40 years ago, when I chose as my sport – some would say, my life – the Korean martial art of Tae Kwon Do. I was young, fit, pretty strong and, unbeknownst to me, very flexible – perfect for the art of kicking high and hard. Once I got hooked on it, I was in the gym a few hours a day, 6-7 days a week…for the next almost 20 years. That did not include the running I did to get my cardiovascular conditioning primed for the art and sport I was practicing at high levels of both skill and competition. I knew then, at age 19, that I was going to pay for the training and abuse I was putting my body through, but not until I was older, say, 40 or so.

couple biking

The Role of Exercise in the Treatment of Diabetes

Diabetes Word Cloud Concept

According to the American College of Sports Medicine’s flagship journal, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise (1), there are more than 21 million Americans with Type 2 Diabetes as of 2010 with an estimated 7 million undiagnosed. If these numbers don’t mean much, let’s give it some perspective: in 1958 there were only 1.5 million. (Granted, the US population has increased, but only from about 180 million to 310 million, not 15-fold as in the numbers of T2D.) Furthermore, due to the now-defined pre-diabetes – or sub-clinical diabetes where the precursors to diabetes are lurking if lifestyle does not change dramatically – it is estimated that 80 million Americans are at risk. Thus, some public health officials are predicting that 21-33% of Americans will have diabetes by the year 2050. The healthcare burden this portends will bankrupt the nation. To make matters worse, the preponderance of both pre-diabetes and T2D is increasing in children and adolescents as sedentary behavior, poor diet and obesity abounds.

While prevention is optimal and much is being done in the way of public health messaging, one of the best means by which to regulate blood sugar in either healthy, pre-diabetes or T2D patients is through physical exercise. Recall above where we discussed how muscles use the sugar in the blood for fuel. The more muscles you have and the more regularly they work at some critical level of effort, the easier it is to control blood sugar. In fact, one’s levels of physical activity (PA) may be a better predictor of risk for diabetes than one’s BMI (body mass index, a ratio of height to weight.)

For the sake of discussion, we should break down physical activity into three main types – activities of daily living (ADL), aerobic exercise (AE) and resistance (or strength) exercise (RE). The MSSE article reviewed the data on all these for their impact on blood sugar, insulin control and T2D risk. Not unremarkably, the evidence strongly suggests that the more active you are, the lower your post-meal and long-term blood sugar is, the better your muscles are able to use the sugar in the blood (glucose tolerance or insulin sensitivity), the lower or lesser your insulin response is to food intake, and the lower your risk for diabetes is. What is remarkable, however, is how little physical activity is required in order to affect many of these changes and benefits.

As far as ADLs is concerned, the general prescription is to ambulate (walk, run, bike, etc) for 30-60 minutes a day or close to 10,000 steps/day, or almost 4 miles/day. This does not mean you have to take walks that last that long; it means you should move around more often throughout the day and sit less often. In fact, some studies show that simply standing up for 2 minute bouts of walking every 20 minutes of sitting lowered post-meal blood sugar and insulin response to eating. (2) While walking is effective, new studies (3) demonstrate that high intensity interval training (HIIT), or sprinting, may be an even better regulator of blood sugar. Comparing training programs in two groups of sedentary women, one doing intervals of moderate intensity, the other at high intensity, the authors found that the HIIT group had slightly greater fat oxidation in the muscles, a roundabout indicator of improved glucose control. HIIT might also be more time efficient.

Between the two studies referenced here, and many more that have looked at HIIT programs compared to traditional long, slower/lower intensity programs, the general belief is that the more muscles that are contracting and the harder they contract, the better the short-term and long-term blood sugar control. The only caveat here is that large muscle groups or bigger body movements are necessary to see these effects; single joint/small muscle contractions will not elicit the disease-modifying effects one might be seeking. For these reasons, RT has been getting more looks when it comes to modifying risk factors for T2D. In fact, the preponderance of evidence shows that RT, at sufficiently high enough intensities to build muscle mass, improves blood sugar control both by using sugar to fuel contractions and by improving the insulin sensitivity of those muscles even after the workouts.

Overall, physical activity has been shown to be an effective, efficient and low-risk/low side-effects treatment and preventive for T2D. A single bout of exercise is sufficient to regulate blood sugar for the next 16-24 hours.

As such, it is recommended that exercise be partaken nearly every day for at least 30 minutes; if obesity is a factor in a patient’s disease, then 60-90 minutes of accumulated physical activity is strongly suggested. Furthermore, a combination exercise prescription of cardiovascular and RT exercise – either same or alternating days – is deemed optimal.

To conclude, physical activity of all sorts has been found to enhance blood sugar uptake by muscles during the session and for several hours thereafter. Thus, it is one of the best, least invasive means by which to prevent, regulate and, for early stage T2D, even reverse diabetes and its downstream effects on the heart, kidneys, nerves (especially of the lower extremities), and eyes. Besides its collateral benefits on the cardiovascular system, it may help reduce weight though it is essential in maintaining weight loss. And PA clearly improves quality of life, not just through its physical benefits but its effects on the brain and psyche, reducing the risk of depression which may be a factor in both the sequence of events leading to weight gain, the challenges of both weight loss and disease management, and the reduction in one’s ability to enjoy various aspects of life due to immobility, neuropathy, visual impairment, and dialysis.

For more information about diabetes, exercise, pharmaceutical management and research, please visit the American Diabetes Association site at diabetes.org

Dr. Irv Rubenstein graduated Vanderbilt-Peabody in 1988 with a PhD in exercise science, having already co-founded STEPS Fitness, Inc. two years earlier — Tennessee’s first personal fitness training center. One of his goals was to foster the evolution of the then-fledgling field of personal training into a viable and mature profession, and has done so over the past 3 decades, teaching trainers across through country. As a writer and speaker, Dr. Irv has earned a national reputation as one who can answer the hard questions about exercise and fitness – not just the “how” but the “why”. 


1. Roberts et al, Modification of Insulin Sensitivity and Glycemic Control by Activity and Exercise. MSSE, Vol. 2013: 45(10):1868-1877
2. Dunstan et al., Breaking up prolonged sitting reduces glucose and insulin responses. Diabetes Care, 2012:35(5): 976-983
3. Astorino et al., Effect of Two Doses of Interval Training on Maximal Fat Oxidation in Sedentary Women. MSSE, Vol. 45(10), pp.1878-1886, 2013




Don’t Let Arthritis Stop You: Move On

Arthritis comes in many forms and has many manifestations, affecting almost every joint in the body. We generally speak in terms of the two most-known if not popular forms of arthritis: rheumatoid (RA) and osteo-arthritis (OA.) The essential difference is in the root cause. RA is an auto-immune disease whereby the body, for unknown reasons, attacks itself, particularly in the joints. OA, on the other hand, is often considered the downstream effect of wear and tear, over-use, prior injury, or, as we’re seeing more of as society gets more sedentary, from lack of use. In OA, typically, some insult to the joint disrupts the natural repair processes and further deterioration occurs subsequently.

treatmentDue to their differing causes, there are obviously differing treatments; but the basics of medical management are essentially the same. I am not qualified to address the specifics of the treatments available but, in lay terms, treatment usually entails some version of anti-inflammation and pain-reduction drugs, precautionary movement or positional guidance (don’t do’s, for example), physical therapy to manage pain and inflammation, and therapeutic exercises to support the structures affected as the disease itself causes not just inflammation and pain but damage to the structures that support the joints. Typically we identify arthritis as something that damages cartilage and, in truth, that is often what the standard ‘films’ – X-ray, possibly MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) – show. We now know that the synovial sacs around the joint are also affected and that these and other chemical disturbances affect the muscles and tendons that move and support the joint. In almost all cases of arthritis, pain, inflammation, reduced strength and range of motion (ROM) ensue, diminishing quality of life in many ways and, because some of the drugs used to treat it, potentially reducing quantity of life. (Gastrointestinal bleeding from non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) or bone loss (osteoporosis) from corticosteroids can lead to fatal outcomes (such as spontaneous fractures leading to falls from osteoporosis) if not treated with other medications.)

When someone is potentially afflicted or actually diagnosed with a form of arthritis, the medical community goes into hyper-drive, encouraging changing one’s habits, be they the types of activities one engages in recreational, competitively, or professionally; or the types of non-activities one currently does, in particular, being inactive. In some cases, dietary advice is offered as we are learning more about foods that are pro-inflammatory and others that have anti-inflammatory benefits. In the former category, we are learning that excessive sugar or simple carbohydrates, including processed wheat products, may exacerbate inflammation while others, such as salmon, dark, green veggies, and certain oils (e.g., olive oil) are capable of reducing the inflammatory elements circulating throughout our bodies and our joints. Furthermore, in more extreme cases, when arthritis becomes very painful and debilitating, over-the-counter and/or prescription-fitted braces may be offered to defer some of the more end-line procedures such as surgery to fuse the joint or replace it with a prosthetic device.

The most common non-pharmaceutical and non-surgical treatment for arthritis of any sort: exercise.

Note that there are several legitimate ways to integrate exercise through resistance training programs that have proven quite effective in arthritis management. Yoga, Pilates (floor or machine based), Tai Chi, Qigong and water-based, or aqua, exercise are all beneficial to many aspects of the overall arthritis program of strength, ROM, proprioception and ultimately function. Since many of these are quite technical and are often done in class formats, one should ask the instructor(s) as to their experience working with arthritis clients.

nonsurgicalAs with any form of exercise, by whatever professional instruction, you should be totally aware of your pain levels as going “through” the pain is not recommended; thus, you must assert control over the exercise sessions. There will be some exercises, however, that are not destructive and may be somewhat painful but must be done in order to maintain reasonable levels of function and independence. So long as the pain subsides within a couple of hours – preferably as soon as you stop – and there is no exacerbation of inflammation the next day, you can assume that the exercise was just enough. If symptoms flare up over the next 24 hours, however, assume you did more than you should have and alert your trainer or instructor so that he/she can avoid doing the aggravating exercise(s) as much or as hard next time. For these reasons, along with all the other recommendations so far as exercise interventions are concerned, it is best to seek the counsel and assistance of a fitness professional with a background in medical fitness. This could be someone with a more advanced academic degree, someone with a license to practice rehabilitation exercise (physical therapist, athletic trainer, etc.), or someone who’s taken several educational programs to have a greater understanding of the variety of disorders and diseases that may benefit from exercise interventions.

Dr. Irv Rubenstein graduated Vanderbilt-Peabody in 1988 with a PhD in exercise science, having already co-founded STEPS Fitness, Inc. two years earlier — Tennessee’s first personal fitness training center. One of his goals was to foster the evolution of the then-fledgling field of personal training into a viable and mature profession, and has done so over the past 3 decades, teaching trainers across through country. As a writer and speaker, Dr. Irv has earned a national reputation as one who can answer the hard questions about exercise and fitness – not just the “how” but the “why”.