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Leisure-time exercise, which helps control diabetes, is low among all diabetes patients, particularly black women

Regular physical activity can improve blood sugar levels, reduce cardiovascular risk factors, boost weight loss, and improve well-being among people with diabetes. However, a new study finds that the level of leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) is low among white, Hispanic, and black diabetes patients, and it is particularly low among black women. The researchers examined the frequency, duration, and intensity of 23 leisure-time exercises, sports, or physically active hobbies based on responses to the 1998 National Health Interview Survey. Activities ranged from walking, gardening/yard work, and weight lifting to aerobics, bicycling, tennis, and golf.

Overall, only 25 percent of people with diabetes engaged in moderate/vigorous LTPA daily. This varied from 16 percent for blacks to 23 percent for Hispanics and 27 percent for whites. After controlling for activity limitations, coexisting illnesses, and other factors, blacks were 39 percent less likely to engage in LTPA than whites; Hispanics did not differ significantly from whites.

White, Hispanic, and black men with diabetes were similarly likely to engage in LTPA. In contrast, black women were only half as likely to engage in LTPA as white and Hispanic women. These findings indicate a pressing need to better understand cultural values about physical activity, especially for black women, note Leonard E. Egede, M.D., M.S., and Mary E. Poston, M.D., of the Medical University of South Carolina. Their study was supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS11418).

More details are in "Racial/ethnic differences in leisure-time physical activity levels among individuals with diabetes," by Drs. Egede and Poston, in the October 2004 Diabetes Care 27(10), pp. 2493-2494.

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