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Staff, Faculty Members Featured in WebMD Videos on Diabetes

From left: Richard Jones, Sheri Colberg-Ochs and Millie Jones.Two of Sheri Colberg-Ochs' star "pupils" are currently featured in videos on WebMD's website that promote the merits of exercise in managing type 2 diabetes.

The two - Millie Jones and Richard Jones (no relation) - are not Old Dominion students, however, but a staff member and faculty member at the university, respectively, who participated in two of the exercise science professor's research studies examining the relationship between exercise and its effect on diabetes. The main study of the two, which was funded by the American Diabetes Association and ran for two and a half years, ending in June of this year, was titled "Protective Health Effects of Differing Types and Intensities of Exercise Training in Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes."

Both Millie, special assistant to the executive director of housing and residence life, and Richard, a senior lecturer of engineering technology who has taught at ODU since 1994, were filmed on campus for the videos, which include footage shot outside Webb Center near the lion fountain, in the residence hall quad, at the Student Recreation Center and in Colberg-Ochs' lab. Each of the videos runs a little over two and a half minutes.

Damon Meharg, the video producer for WebMD, asked Colberg-Ochs to suggest participants for the series of videos on diabetes. He found the ODU researcher online through her website (www.shericolberg.com) and the many interviews she has done in relation to her studies and as the author of several books about diabetes.

"I came up with both Richard and Millie for Damon to interview, and both readily agreed," Colberg-Ochs said. "I picked them in particular because they have been so successful in managing their diabetes through lifestyle improvements - exercise, better food choices, weight loss, etc. - and both have come off of some or all of their diabetes medications as a result."

The videos were shot at the end of July and posted on the website Sept. 23.

Millie, who has worked at ODU for 15 years, said she heard about Colberg-Ochs' diabetes studies through the Daily Announcements.

"I have exercised pretty much all of my life, but a shoulder injury in 2010 resulting in surgery precluded me from exercising for almost a year," she said. "Coupled with diabetes, which was diagnosed in 2008, I began to gain weight and really felt horrible. I really thought this program could be the 'jump-start' necessary to get back into a well-balanced exercise and diet routine. It has been absolutely awesome!"

She added that the program "has propelled me into setting other goals to reach my target weight where I was several years ago."

In the video, Millie, who is 48, talks about having had low self-esteem and low energy levels before she met with Colberg-Ochs and took part in the studies.

In addition to changes in diet, significant changes in exercise are important for people living with diabetes, the videos say. Colberg-Ochs, who is also interviewed in the two segments, suggests incorporating more movement in everyday activities, such as taking more steps, or just stretching and bending. She notes: "One of the biggest problems that people have with exercise is they start out too intensely and it's either not fun or they end up getting injured."

As noted in Millie's video, "Diabetes and Fitness," recent studies have shown that exercise may help curb one's appetite, and it suggests that walking for 30 minutes a day - even if that is broken up in increments - is beneficial for those with type 2 diabetes. Commitment is the key.

Millie, who has added racquetball, tennis and weights to her exercise regimen, now works out for an hour or more on most days.

"I made the time," she says in the video. "I realized that I had to make the time, that if I didn't make the time, then I was going to continue to feel bad, I was going to continue to pay for medications and be on medication."

Millie, who also says she doesn't get as hungry as she used to since becoming more active, has lost 20 pounds this year.

"It's amazing to know that you have been successful at not giving in to something, and beating something," she proudly says in the video.

She recently said that her diabetes is almost non-existent. "My numbers are excellent and I'm no longer required to take medication for the condition."

"I think that exercise is honestly the best medicine that there is for diabetes and a whole host of other diseases," Colberg-Ochs says in the video, adding: "Can you really consider [lifestyle changes] a cure? Probably not, but [type 2 diabetes] is a disease that is completely manageable and you can control it to the point where it's almost like you don't have it any more."

Like Millie, commitment was the key for Richard, 55, a self-described former "couch potato" whose type 2 diabetes was out of control and putting his life in jeopardy. A major infection caused by diabetes landed him in the ICU at Portsmouth Naval Hospital about six years ago, and he also suffered a mini stroke. In his video, "Diabetes and the Heart," he talks about the decision he realized he had to make if he was to turn his life around.

"It was time to either decide, I'm not going to live all that long and be like my dad, who didn't live that long with diabetes - he died in his early 70s - or do I want to live? And so I made that decision to live."

He first made a major change in his eating habits by adopting a heart-healthy diet - one that properly balances proteins and carbohydrates - and then joined Colberg-Ochs' exercise studies.

"Exercise helps two ways to counter heart disease," she says in the video. "The first is that it actually increases the size of the vessels that your blood flows through, both the arteries and the veins, and allows your blood to flow more effectively through those vessels. The second is that it helps prevent and possibly reverse plaque formation that blocks arteries."

"And that," Meharg says as the video's announcer, "can translate to lower blood pressure, slower pulse rate and a greater amount of healthy cholesterol, or HDL."

For the study, Richard started out on the treadmill and later added weight lifting rotations. "I pushed hard on any exercise which was focused on lower body and back. I targeted these areas because they are the larger muscles and burn sugar at a higher rate," he explained.

He ultimately built up both his strength and stamina, and today his glucose levels are out of the danger zone. Richard now controls his diabetes without need of insulin injections, which he gave himself daily before he dropped both 60 pounds and an unhealthy lifestyle. Today he is maintaining a weight of 180 pounds and is a lifetime member of Weight Watchers. He also continues to exercise regularly at a local gym.

"I just wanted to live," the retired Navy submarine officer says in the video. "And I wanted to have some quality of life when I live."

As Richard said recently of his participation in Colberg-Ochs' study, "Her program changed my life."

For her part, Colberg-Ochs couldn't be happier with the progress Millie and Richard have made.

"Both have significantly improved their physical and mental health since becoming participants in my study," she said. "I would have to add that the successes that Millie and Richard have enjoyed with the diabetes management are largely due to their own efforts to adopt a healthier lifestyle. My study focuses on aerobic and resistance training, but they made the changes in diet and stress management and lost most of the weight on their own. They are exemplary!"

Colberg-Ochs believes the videos are done very well and offer "a positive message to others who may need to travel down a similar road to manage their diabetes and their health."

She adds: "Exercise is good medicine!"

According to Meharg, the diabetes videos will be on the WebMD website for a year. To view the videos, go to: http://diabetes.webmd.com/h2t-managing-diabetes-11/default.htm#nav, then:

• click on any of the links (e.g., "fitness tips")

• click the orange "continue" button at the bottom of the window

• near the bottom of the next window, you'll see a title with a video camera icon (e.g., "diabetes and fitness") - click that link to get to the video windows.

This article was posted on: October 7, 2011

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