Alumnus educates campus on diabetes

Adam Wright and Adam Wright

Running, walking, or biking.

All folks know they should do it. But for those with diabetes, exercise could be the difference between life and death.

To an audience of mostly students in an Olscamp lecture hall Friday, East Carolina University professor Peter Farrell discussed the importance of physical activity in not only decreasing the risk involved with type 2 diabetes mellitus, but also preventing it.

This weekend, Farrell was inducted into the BGSU Alumni Hall of Fame.

Farrell, who earned bachelor’s and doctorate degrees from the University, said that inactivity is a major cause for a variety of modern diseases. He also noted that the genetic makeup for today’s human beings was created during the hunter/gatherer stage in development, a time when physical exertion was essential for survival.

“If you weren’t physically active, you starved to death,” Farrell said during his PowerPoint presentation.

Farrell used studies done within the last 30 years that showed how exercise can dramatically help those afflicted with type 2 diabetes, a condition where insulin that the body produces does not work properly.

Insulin is like a key that opens cell membranes, letting glucose–or blood sugar converted from food–into the cells, providing energy for the body. When sugar is prevented from entering cells, as in people with type 2 diabetes, it builds up in the blood stream, causing fatigue, blurred vision and sometimes death if not controlled.

Presenting the audience with graphs that displayed the results of various studies, Farrell explained that physical activity can increase the effectiveness of insulin.

In one study, participants labeled as pre-diabetic because of their high glucose levels performed 45 minutes of moderately strenuous exercise, like brisk walking. Researchers found that levels did in fact decrease after the acute physical activity — but never down to normal — and they would always return to their original high state.

Another study that focused on regular activity, however, showed that when participants exercised for an entire week, 60 to 90 minutes a day, glucose levels almost returned to normal and stayed that way throughout the period.

Regular exercise can also be beneficial in diabetes prevention, according to Farrell.

A four-year study by the National Institute of Health and the American Diabetes Association was conducted with three groups of pre-diabetic participants.

One group took medication that lowers blood sugar and helps the body use insulin more efficiently, another exercised for 150 minutes per week and was on a low-fat and low-calorie diet and the third served as a control by being a placebo group.

The results showed that 41 percent of the control group had become diabetic during the period while the group that took the medication saw lower blood sugar levels in 31 percent of its members.

And proving that exercise truly is the best prevention for diabetes, 58 percent of the group that dieted and exercised saw lower glucose levels.

Farrell, who was asked to speak by the School of Human Movement, Sport and Leisure Studies, said he gave the presentation to educate students on the importance of exercise, noting that one in three children will become obese during their lifetime.

Amy Morgan, assistant professor in the School, said she is also worried about the national trend towards laziness.

“I want them to be less inactive,” Morgan said, referring to what she hopes the students gained from Farrell’s talk.

One student was able to take more away from the presentation than most.

Cara Derck, a senior applied health major, attended the speech with her gerontology class. She works at a local nursing home where many of the residents are diabetic and said that she will be able to apply what she learned from the presentation at her job.

“I will definitely recommend that they get more exercise,” Derck said about her patients. “I think it would help them a lot.”