July 10, 2006

Community-wide program gets residents exercising

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A program designed to boost
physical activity levels in a low-income, multi-ethnic
community did just that, and led to real health benefits for

Compared with a "control" community, fewer participants in
the get-fit community gained weight and many lost weight,
reducing their risk of type 2 diabetes -- which largely results
from obesity. Residents in the intervention community also saw
improvements in cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar

Dr. Anne Karen Jenum, at the Norwegian Institute of Public
Health in Oslo, and colleagues tested their program over three
years in a low-income, urban district in Norway with high rates
of heart disease, obesity and physical inactivity.

The program involved local political and lay leaders and
health and welfare workers in the planning and implementation
of an "orchestrated set of strategies" to increase physical

For example, organized walks were planned and promoted;
leaflets and other reminders about the health benefits of
physical activity such as using stairs were distributed; and
free diet, nutrition, and smoking cessation counseling was

"We observed a net increase in physical activity of 9
percent," Jenum's group reports in the medical journal Diabetes

The net proportion of individuals who gained weight was
reduced by 50 percent. "Although there was an increase in mean
body mass in both districts, the increase in the intervention
district was only half of that seen in the control district,"
the team explains.

"Small but significant" positive changes were seen in lipid
levels and smoking habits, and, in men, blood sugar levels.

By reducing inactivity, the community program "led to
significant health effects on risk factors for type 2 diabetes
and cardiovascular disease," Jenum and her colleagues conclude.
Low-cost community-based strategies that get people moving
could help stem the epidemic of obesity and type 2 diabetes,
they say.

SOURCE: Diabetes Care, July 2006.