Insurance coverage for exercise could work out for diabetics

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A new study published in Tuesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association lends credence to the idea of providing insurance coverage for exercise programs — at least for diabetes patients. The results of a meta-analysis of 47 randomized clinical trials totalling about 8,500 patients show that, after at least 12 weeks of structured exercise for 150 minutes or more per week (about 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week), participants had an average drop of 0.89 percent in glycolated hemoglobin (hemoglobin A1c) — a proxy for blood-sugar control. Led by Dr. Daniel Umpierre of the Hospital de Clinicas de Porto Alegre, Brazil, the results also demonstrated that shorter weekly exercise regimens translated to a 0.36 percent decline.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Marco Prahor, director of the University of Florida’s Institute on Aging, says that if health insurers pay for structured exercise classes, the savings from future health improvement could outweigh the costs. “Cumulative work over the past few decades provides solid evidence for public policymakers to consider structured physical activity and exercise programs as worthy of insurance reimbursement,” he says.

ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross agrees that diabetics in particular can benefit greatly from a structured exercise program: “Both in terms of general conditioning and blood sugar control, diabetics should be encouraged to partake of regular exercise. While insurance coverage is no guarantee that they will do so, it would surely help. Plus, the benefits of exercise on waistlines can’t be underestimated.”