Diabetes currently affects 29.1 million Americans. It is a disease which affects a person’s overall health and lifestyle. At the same time, a person suffering from diabetes can change their lifestyle, and take measures to improve their health and well-being. Exercise is one of those effective measures.
Diabetes: The Basics
When working properly, the human body derives its energy from food. In simple terms, this is done by converting glucose (blood sugar) into useable energy. The conversion is dependent upon insulin, the hormone produced by the pancreas gland.
With diabetes, the body either no longer produces the needed insulin, or does not produce adequate amounts to properly maintain the blood glucose levels.
Type I Diabetes (Insulin Dependent Diabetes) requires daily insulin injections to maintain the blood sugar level.
The condition in which the body continues to produce insulin but cannot use it effectively is identified as insulin resistance. The body cells cannot properly absorb the glucose, and blood glucose level builds-up. This can lead to pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes, or Non-Insulin Dependent diabetes, is the condition in which the body continues to produce some insulin, but not adequate to sustaining the optimum blood sugar level.
Obesity, overweight, poor diet, high blood pressure and insufficient exercise have been identified as risk factors in the development of Type2 diabetes. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), exercise is an important part of managing diabetes.
Exercise and Diabetes
The first step in implementing an exercise program is to consult with your healthcare provider. You want to ensure the exercise program you have chosen is one that is safe for you. With that in place, the benefits derived from the correlation between exercise and diabetes can be experienced.
The NIH identifies the following ways in which exercise can help in managing diabetes:
- Helps in managing weight
- Can help lower blood sugar level without medication
- Reduces the risk of heart disease
- Reduces the risk of stress
The NIH suggests that a person may not see improvement in their health until he or she has been exercising for several months.
It is recommended that a person begin their exercise program with walking, starting with 5 to 10 minutes daily. This is especially important with individuals who are out-of-shape.
Fast walking is recommended, working-up to 30 to 45 minutes daily, for a minimum of 5 days per week. For those needing to lose weight, more exercise may be needed. Some may prefer participating in exercise classes, swimming, water aerobics or cycling rather than fast walking.
The NIH suggests some taking some safety precautions when exercising:
- Inform exercise coaches or and partners that you have diabetes.
- Wear a necklace or bracelet identifying you as a diabetic.
- Carry emergency contact information and phone numbers on your person.
The NIH further recommends maintaining an exercise schedule to include exercising the same time each day at a consistent level for the same length of time. This facilitates control of the blood sugar level. It is also important to maintain adequate water consumption before, during and after exercise.
The benefits of exercising are many. An overall healthier lifestyle, reduced stress, reduced risk of heart disease, a more optimum body weight, and lowered blood cholesterol level are benefits over and above helping maintain blood glucose levels in the management of diabetes.