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KU Med exercise class designed for individuals with diabetes

It's 7:15 a.m. at the KU Medical Center and Kay Sweeney is preparing to participate in an exercise class designed for patients with diabetes. But first, a health-care professional overseeing the session monitors her vital signs: Sweeney's pulse, blood pressure, blood-sugar and blood-oxygen levels.

Sweeney, 61, has type 2 diabetes and monitoring these signs will help determine the intensity of her exercise or whether she should be exerting herself at all, said Perri Cagle, a clinical assistant professor of physical therapy and rehabilitation sciences. When the session ends, the vital signs are taken again to document the effects of the exercise.

The new program was funded by a $20,000 grant from the Diabetes Freedom Foundation to KU Endowment. An inauguration was held recently at the Exercise and Fitness Laboratory at the medical center.

"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, chair of physical therapy and rehabilitation sciences department. 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 level," she said.

It can be dangerous for people with diabetes to exercise when their blood-sugar level is too high or too low; this risk can deter some from getting the activity they need. Having a medical professional monitor these levels for participants provides a sense of security for those who would otherwise be reluctant to exercise, Stehno-Bittel said.

"I enjoy life and I want to live longer," Sweeney said, explaining her motivation to exercise regularly.

She acknowledged that it could be intimidating to go to a regular gym. A patient in the family medicine department at the medical center, she said her blood-sugar level has dropped since beginning the program in March. Seeing the positive effects of exercise on her blood-sugar levels and blood pressure during the course of each exercise session is a powerful incentive to return, she said.

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, which cost $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.

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