KU Medical Center gives diabetics new fitness options
It's 7:15 a.m., and Kay Sweeney prepares to workout. Unlike most early morning fitness junkies, she stops to have her vitals signs taken before she stretches. A health-care professional takes her pulse, blood pressure, blood-sugar and blood-oxygen levels as she prepares for a new class at the KU Medical Center especially designed for patients like her.
Sweeney, 61, has type 2 diabetes. Monitoring these signs will help determine the intensity of exercise or whether she should be exerting herself at all, said Perri Cagle, '89. Cagle, who led the session, is a clinical assistant professor of physical therapy and rehabilitation sciences at KU. When the session ends, the measurements are taken again to document the effects of the exercise.
The center launched the new exercise program for patients with diabetes in April with a $20,000 grant from the Diabetes Freedom Foundation to KU Endowment. "There is a great need for an organized, affordable exercise group that is solely geared for persons with diabetes," said program director Lisa Stehno-Bittel, h'83, chair of physical therapy and rehabilitation sciences. She noted that diabetes has been associated with increased rates of obesity. "Exercise can help these individuals control their weight and lower their blood-sugar levels," she said.
Diabetics have unique concerns when it comes to physical activity. If blood-sugar levels are too high or too low, exercise can be dangerous, and the risk deters many from getting the activity they need. Having a medical professional monitor these levels provides a sense of security for those who would otherwise be reluctant, Stehno-Bittel said.
Sweeney acknowledged that regular gyms could be intimidating. Since beginning the program in March, her blood-sugar level has dropped and her blood pressure has improved. These positive effects are a powerful incentive to return to the exercise class twice a week before work, she said. Sweeney adds, "I enjoy life, and I want to live longer."
People with diabetes who would like to participate in the exercise program should call 913-588-6913 for more information. Classes last 45 minutes and run for 12-week sessions. Each session costs $30. In addition to the vital signs measures at the beginning and end of exercise, the class includes a warm-up, aerobic exercise, stretching, strengthening and a cool-down session.