Exercise for diabetics - get moving!

By Paul Scicluna

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The two most common forms of diabetes are referred to as Type 1 and Type 2.  Type 1 diabetes differs from Type 2 in that the body stops producing insulin altogether.  Type 2 diabetes is generally diagnosed in older adults and occurs as the body stops producing enough insulin or the individual becomes resistant to their own insulin. 

With either form of diabetes, we lose our ability to adequately utilise sugar.  Blood sugar levels increase due to the body's difficulty in transporting sugar into the cells and out of the blood stream.  There are various ways to lower blood sugar levels including exercise, diet, and medications. 

Exercise is a very important part of diabetic management for both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics.  For the Type 1 diabetic, regular exercise helps to maintain insulin sensitivity, helps prevent accumulation of excess weight, and increases the use of glucose by muscles, thereby lowering blood sugar levels. 

Things to consider when attempting to prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes are regular exercise and a good diet.

Exercise not only helps directly in diabetic management by lowering blood sugar levels and maintaining insulin sensitivity, but also helps minimise many of the complications that can arise in a diabetic individual. Studies have shown that walking for 30 minutes per day can substantially diminish the possibility of developing Type 2 diabetes. 

Diabetics tend to develop circulatory problems and exercise can certainly help lower blood pressure and improve circulation throughout the body.  Since individuals with diabetes tend to have poor blood flow to their lower extremities, better circulation is of great benefit. 

There are some risks associated with exercise, but the potential benefits greatly outweigh the risks.  Since exercise does lower blood sugar levels, people with diabetes should measure their blood sugar both before and after exercising. Since your body uses more sugar while exercising and makes you more sensitive to insulin, there is a risk of blood sugar becoming too low and causing hypoglycemia. 

When exercising it is important to let others know that you are diabetic. They should be informed what to do in case of hypoglycemia. During and after exercise sessions, you should pay close attention to how you feel since rapid heart beat, increased sweating, feeling shaky, or hunger can signal that your blood sugar levels are becoming too low. 

Exercise is a critical part of diabetic management and treatment.  Exercise helps blood sugar control, when the muscles use more glucose and the body becomes more sensitive to insulin. 

Exercise also helps to prevent and minimise common diabetic complications, including heart problems, high blood pressure and circulatory deficiencies.  All diabetics should include a regular exercise program as part of their overall management plan. It really can be as simple as walking each day!

Check out our article, "Natural foods that control diabetes" for a healthy way of eating for diabetics. 



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