Diabetes and Physical Activity

By Alessandra Pluchino, Ph. D. | 11/21/2013, 9 a.m.

Joan Smith has been a diabetic patient at the Jefferson Reaves, Sr. Health Center in Overtown for more than seven years. Through the center’s high risk diabetes management clinic, 62-year-old Smith recently began a physical activity program to help control the disease.

During her first seven months of exercising she has recorded dramatic improvement. Her hemoglobin A1C - a common blood test that reflects the average blood sugar level of diabetics – has decreased significantly. This considerable improvement in such a short amount of time can be attributed to her active lifestyle.

“I am so happy and feeling so much better,” Smith said. “The exercises are helping me a lot. I’m walking on the treadmill and using the bicycle. I’m exercising with weights, sometimes three to four times a week. It excites me.”

Part of Jackson Health System, Jefferson Reaves offers comprehensive primary care services. Its high-risk diabetes management clinic, along with the physical activity clinic and the nutrition clinic are combined initiatives supported by the collaboration between the United Health Foundation and the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. The clinics are free for low-income and uninsured patients with diabetes and other chronic diseases.

At the physical activity clinic, patients are educated on the health benefits of exercise. We also teach them general conditioning exercises that they can perform at the clinic and at home.

When we think about exercise, we have the tendency to associate it just with weight loss and fitness. But what we don’t realize is that an active lifestyle can also prevent and manage chronic diseases like diabetes. In addition to complying with the medications that are prescribed by a physician, we must consider that exercise is also a medicine.

Having seen such positive results, Joan Smith is committed to sticking with her exercise program. One of her motivations is her granddaughter, who wants Smith to teach her the exercises she has learned at the clinic.

“That’s my biggest inspiration,” Smith said, “especially because my granddaughter is already learning the importance of being physically active.”

For more information about the high risk diabetes management clinic, contact Nicole Lambert-Hernandez, patient access representative, at 786-466-4012. Exercise physiologist Alessandra Pluchino, Ph.D., manages the physical activity clinic at Jefferson Reaves, Sr. Health Center. Pluchino specializes in physical activity for patients with chronic diseases and also participates in clinical research. Pluchino can be contacted at apluchino@med.miami.edu.