Why Exercising is Important if You Have Diabetes?

Parul Dube

November 18, 2022

Diabetes has become a widespread epidemic. A sedentary lifestyle, increasing prevalence and incidence of unhealthy eating habits, and stress can induce this disease.

It can also result from genetic defects in insulin, pancreatic disease, surgery, infections, and drugs or chemicals. Diabetes, also called diabetes mellitus, is a group of conditions resulting in too much sugar (high blood glucose). 

Diabetes is of two types – Type 1 and type 2

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Type 2 is a chronic condition that affects how the body processes blood sugar (glucose). It is prevalent among 90-95% of individuals. The bad news is it causes insulin resistance in the body. The good news is we can prevent, correct, and delay diabetes with physical activities and other lifestyle changes.

Doctors suggest those with type 2 diabetes decrease the amount of time spent on sedentary behaviour. A sedentary lifestyle is a type of lifestyle that characterises little or no physical activity. A person who follows a sedentary lifestyle spends a lot of time sitting, watching television, and socialising, which comes with irregular hours and excessive food. It can potentially contribute to ill health from the physical, cognitive, and emotional standpoints. In addition, prolonged sedentary time leads to poor glycemic control.

How Does Exercise Affect Blood Sugar?

The effect physical activity has on your blood sugar will vary depending on how long you are active and many other factors. Exercise helps in improving your glycemic control by interrupting prolonged sitting with five minutes of standing or light intensity ambulation for 20-30 minutes. Adults with type 2 diabetes should avoid prolonged sitting with five minutes of a post-meal walk or three minutes of light intensity activity.  

People with Type 2 diabetes should include 150 mins of exercise every week, amounting to 20 minutes of daily exercise. To simplify, it’s 1% of a 24 hour day. When complemented with dietary changes, exercise can help you achieve 5-7% of weight loss, which in turn can revert, delay or prevent the onset of diabetes. 

Exercise helps control weight, lower blood pressure, lower harmful LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, raise healthy HDL cholesterol, strengthen muscles and bones, reduce anxiety, and improve your general well-being. In addition, if you have diabetes: exercise lowers blood glucose levels. Consequently, it boosts your body’s sensitivity to insulin, countering insulin resistance.

Let’s have a look at the other benefits of exercising: 

  • All forms of exercise—aerobic, resistance, or doing both (combined training)—are equally good at lowering HbA1c values in people with diabetes.
  • Adventure sports, such as trekking, should be safe if you are not affected by other health issues apart from diabetes. Therefore, it is imperative to consult a trainer and get the proper training advice.
  • Alternative training like yoga may improve glycemic control, lipid levels, and body composition in adults with type 2 diabetes.
  • Exercise is a crucial component of diabetes management; it can help boost your overall fitness.

Exercise usually lowers your blood glucose levels. If you are under the doctor’s supervision and take medicines or insulin, following a workout regime would require proper supervision. A boost in workout intensity or length can mean you’ll have to adjust your snacks, medication, or both. Talk to your health coach or doctor about what’s right for you.

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About the Author

Parul holds a Masters of Medical Science in Public Health Nutrition from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and has worked across the globe from the U.K to New Zealand (NZ) gaining her License with the Health Professionals Council (HPC, UK) and the NZ Nutrition Council. From being a Gold medalist in Clinical Nutrition to being awarded an internship with World Health Organisation (WHO, Cairo, Egypt) and Contracts with CDC Parul has had a wide spectrum of work experiences. She is very passionate about Nutrition and Fitness and holds strong to her guiding mantras ‘ Move more’ and ‘Eat Food that your grandmother can recognize’!

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