Diabetes and Exercise – what’s the big deal???

su Diabetes and Exercise – what’s the big deal???

Due to the large percentage of the population currently with the condition known as diabetes (it is estimated as of a 2007 study that 7.8% of the population currently HAS diabetes, and another 25.9% of adults age 20 and over has pre-diabetes), many people are talking about prevention and exercise.  I’ll touch on the prevention a little bit, and then delve deeper into the exercise portion.

Many of you may have been told that prevention should include not eating anything that contains sugar, exercise (there is that nasty word again), eating at certain times of the day, losing weight, etc.  Most of this is true, of course.  Here are 5 tips on prevention from the Mayo clinic:

  1. Get more physical activity (there’s the whole exercise thing again)
  2. Get plenty of fiber
  3. Go for whole grains
  4. Lose extra weight
  5. Skip fad diets and make healthier choices

So, for now I’ll continue to skip over the nasty exercise word, and concentrate on the other 4 steps.

First, the fiber.  Why on earth would you want to eat fiber?  Well, for one, it can make you feel fuller, which can help you lose weight.  It also tends to slow down things going through your intestines, and slows the absorption of sugar, allowing you to have better control over your blood sugar after a meal.

Now, for the whole grains.  Scientists aren’t quite sure why whole grains help, but they do tend to help maintain blood sugar levels.  Currently, recommendations are to get half of your grains from whole grains – look for the word “whole” on the package and among the first few ingredients listed.

Losing excess weight – often even as much as 5 to 10 percent of initial body weight – and exercise regularly can reduce the risk of developing diabetes by as much as 58% over 3 years.  Fat releases hormones that promote diabetes; decreasing the amount of total body fat that you have will decrease levels of those hormones, and reduce your risk.

Fad diets – dieting is about lifestyle change, and making healthy choices.  Eliminating one entire food group can set you up for nutritional deficiencies.  And the weight you lose in the beginning is mostly water and a substance called glycogen, which is stored in the liver to help regulate blood sugar levels.  Glycogen can store up to 3 times its weight in water, and can be used up rapidly – this is the source of losing massive amounts of weight (well, one of the sources at least – you do have other sources of glycogen and water in your body, especially in your muscles) while on severely limiting diets (not mentioning any, of course *cough*Atkins*cough*).

Now, for the exercise portion. People who exercise for 2 1/2 hours at least per week cut their risk (the 58% mentioned above).  Does this mean that you have to purchase a gym membership and work your butt off?  Of course not – moderate exercise is the key.  About half of that needs to be aerobic – meaning, it works out your heart and your vascular systems (blood vessels).  The other half should be in resistance-exercises (weight lifting, using bands, etc).

The effects of exercise on blood glucose levels lasts about 3 days, so don’t do your 2 1/2 hours in one day, and expect that to be the end.  About 30 minutes each day is the perfect amount, for 5 days a week.  Now, who can’t fit THAT in???  Other exercises that could be done for the prevention of diabetes include:

  • Gardening
  • Walking
  • Biking
  • Hiking
  • Walking up/down stairs
  • Lifting bottles/jugs of water
  • Chasing the kids around
  • etc…

So, nearly anything you can think of that will raise your heart rate can count as your exercise.

Please note:  if you already HAVE diabetes, it would be best if you talked to your doctor before starting ANY exercise program.  People who have been diagnosed with diabetes are at an increased risk for (among other things) heart disease, so make sure your ticker is in good condition before you start!  Stay healthy!!!


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2 Responses to “Diabetes and Exercise – what’s the big deal???”

  1. Informative, but I have to call you on a pet peeve of mine. There are 2 different diseases that both go by the name diabetes. Everything you just outlined only applies to Type 2 diabetes. While all those things are still very important to Type 1 diabetics, (and, really, all people) the reasons are different. And no amount of exercise or better diet will stop you from getting Type 1 diabetes.

    Unfortunately, due to most news articles not differentiating between the two types, a lot of people out there have some very dangerous misconceptions because they’ve confused the different kinds of diabetes.

  2. You know John, I actually thought about that as I was writing. Unfortunately, type I diabetics (your lovely wife included) only accounts for about 5-10% of all diabetics diagnosed. And you’re absolutely right – this article is focused on Type II diabetes only (acquired diabetes).
    Type I diabetes is a genetic condition, where the body’s own immune cells attack the pancreatic cells that make the hormone insulin (for those that don’t know). So, while diet and exercise are extremely important for those people as well, there is no prevention for the condition, as it is brought about by the body’s immune system, and not outside factors (as far as we know, research is still on-going). And I’m afraid that the only known “cure” (I use that term VERY loosely) is to transplant the cells that make insulin from one person into another. The treatment for type I is usually very strict blood sugar control and insulin injections.

    Hope this cleared everything up John – wasn’t trying to “skip over” type I diabetics, but the broader audience is *hopefully* going to be type II or pre-diabetics… ;)

    And hey – thanks for all the great comments you leave on here – makes me feel like someone is reading my stuff… *grin*

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