Most are aware that there are two different types of diabetes – 1 and 2. Those with type 1 diabetes are insulin-dependent. Their immune system destroys the cells that release insulin, making natural absorption of glucose for energy impossible. Type 2 diabetes is by far more common, accounting for over 90 percent of all cases. In this form, the body produces insulin but is unable to use it appropriately, otherwise known as insulin resistance. While the two are different and may require different approaches to treatment, both benefit vastly from a healthy lifestyle that includes physical fitness and sound nutrition.
In the case of type 2 diabetes, a sensible diet and exercise program can reverse the disease or keep it at bay entirely. In fact, studies have indicated that 150 minutes of exercise each week drastically reduces the likelihood of progressing into type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. Even for those with type 1, a healthy lifestyle can also help control the disease and help patients avoid long-term complications.
How Does Exercise Help Diabetes?
For both types of diabetes, exercise serves the critical function of maintaining healthy blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. For those with type 2 diabetes, this is especially helpful, as these patients already have an overabundance of glucose in the blood either because they are insulin resistant or simply do not produce enough. However, with exercise, muscles are able to use glucose without the need for insulin, thereby naturally lowering blood glucose levels.
This is similar for those with type 1 diabetes who require less insulin to process glucose when they exercise. These patients also have the added benefit of reduced complications such as heart problems. Blocked arteries leading to heart attack are a particular concern for those with type 1 diabetes, and regular exercise can help prevent such issues.
How Should You Start Exercising for Diabetes?
If you do not currently exercise, begin slowly. Start with the basics, and try to add in physical activity wherever you can. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, or park at the back of the lot. You’ll find that such activity quickly adds up. Even small changes can get you to 30 minutes of exercise each day, and it doesn’t take much to reap the rewards. Research shows that 10-30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity such as jogging or walking, three to five days per week is enough to make a positive impact on glycemic control.
If you are willing and able to take your activity level even further, consider adding weight training to your routine. Researchers have found that while one is good, the two together (aerobic and strength) offer the greatest benefit to those who either have diabetes or are at risk for developing the condition.
Determining the healthiest approach to control your own diabetes can often be overwhelming, and often, it takes some guidance to start. For expert direction in managing your condition and developing healthy habits such as a sound diet and exercise program, contact Lane Regional Medical Center to inquire about our Diabetes Management Program.
Sherri Brady, RN, CPE, CDE
Diabetes Nurse Educator