Feel the burn

By now, you know how much I love to exercise.

Well, maybe I don’t always love the exercise itself. But I certainly love the way it makes me feel. And I also love the health benefits that come with it.

That’s why I make a point of being consistent with my workouts. Because if you put in the time necessary to achieve results, you will reap the rewards.

And that’s especially true if you’re diabetic, according to one recent study.

This research showed that type 2 diabetics who stuck with an exercise program for six months decreased the amount of fat in their livers, around their hearts, and around their waist (also known as “visceral fat,” because it surrounds your internal organs).

Granted, it was a small study. But nevertheless, it showed significant changes to subjects’ fat distribution.

With exercise alone. (That’s right. This particular study didn’t feature any dietary changes.)

And in just six months, too.

I think you can agree that this is a pretty major finding. At the very least, it points to exercise as a powerful way to reduce cardiovascular risk. But more than that, it looks like exercise might be the closest thing we’ve got to that mythical fat-melting “magic bullet.”

Just consider this study’s results. Exercise decreased subjects’ liver fat by a third. And while the researchers aren’t certain as to how it did this, they think it’s because your liver adapts to exercise by “upregulating” fat metabolism=.

In other words, exercise helps your body to use fat (instead of carbs or sugar) for energy. And this is important, since fat is more energy dense than any other food. (That’s precisely why your body likes to store it.)

Basically, you get more bang for your buck when you burn fat for fuel. Kind of like high octane gasoline for high performance vehicles.

Interestingly enough, though, the researchers didn’t notice a change in the subjects’ heart muscle function after exercise training. (Exercise capacity improved–but not blood pressure, heart rate, and other measures of cardiovascular health.)

This could mean one of two things. Either the study wasn’t long enough. Or there weren’t enough patients enrolled to see such an effect. (Like I said, the study was small–only a dozen subjects.)

Either way, anomalies like this aren’t uncommon in clinical research–especially when diabetics are involved. There are just so many other variables that can contribute to heart disease. It can be near impossible to isolate just one.

In the end, though, that doesn’t make the implications of this study any less exciting. If this conclusion holds water, it could mean that neither dietary interventions nor substantial weight loss are necessary for you to make profoundly beneficial changes to your body.

But let’s face it. Shedding excess weight improves pretty much everything–especially if you’re diabetic. So if getting healthy is really your priority, your diet is still one of the first places to start.

Just remember that it’s not a replacement for regular visits to the gym. Or daily walks, as the case may be…

Exercise and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: Changes in Tissue-Specific Fat Distribution and Cardiac Function. Radiology. 2013 Jun 25. [Epub ahead of print]