Managing diabetes with exercise

Managing diabetes with exercise

27 May 2021

Diabetes mellitus, or diabetes, is a metabolic disease that causes high blood sugar. Although there is currently no cure, with daily self-care and exercise, you can live an enjoyable life by learning about the condition and effectively managing it.

What are the types of diabetes?

There are several types of diabetes, including type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes. Type 1 is a genetic disease and is managed by daily insulin injections, whereas type 2 is typically a lifestyle disease. In most cases, type 2 diabetes is caused by poor diet and lifestyle choices and can be managed (and sometimes overcome) by improving diet and physical activity. Gestational diabetes is a form which occurs during pregnancy and can also be managed with healthy eating and regular physical activity.

How can I manage type 2 diabetes?

This progressive condition is a combination of having ineffective insulin and not enough insulin. Insulin is a hormone which moves sugar from your blood into the cells, which becomes energy to burn. To avoid the ongoing destruction of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, lifestyle changes are required. 

Exercise can improve the most significant pathological effect – insulin resistance. Exercise opens a pathway to transport glucose into the cells where the insulin alone struggles. Not only does exercise improve blood glucose control, it reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, contributes to weight loss, and improves wellbeing. 

Why should I not just rely on medication? 

Although type 2 diabetes can be managed through medication, the condition can only be truly managed by a combination of lifestyle changes. Relying soling on medication can be ineffective, expensive and have adverse side effects. 

Exercise is: 

  • Safe – there are no adverse side effects to exercising
  • Inexpensive 
  • Effective 

Exercise also helps to improve blood pressure, lipid levels and cardiorespiratory fitness. 

Where do I to start?

Everyone is different, so not all exercises might be right for you. To guide you in the right direction, our qualified Exercise Physiologists (EP) are qualified in prescribing exercise to manage diabetes. To get you started, here are a few exercise ideas: 

1. Start small! 
10 min stints, 3x day, mix of body weight and cardio activities.

2. Take no more than 1x day off in a row. 
The glucose transport pathways opened by exercise will stop working between 12-24hrs post exercise.

Walk around the block. 
4. Park further away from work or the shops and walk the rest of the way. 
5. Use the stairs instead of the lift.

If you are wanting to get started with an EP, please note the following:

  • Each individual case is different and must be assessed by a GP. 
  • You must consult a GP for recommendations and to gain a referral for an Exercise Physiologist or a Diabetes Educator.
  • You may still need medications in order to maintain glucose homeostasis.

For more information, contact our the Mates4Mates EPs today. 

Written by Exercise Physiologist Harley Fox. 

  • Physical health and wellbeing

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