One of the most common co-morbidities and medical conditions some of our clients have is diabetes. Diabetes, a chronic condition characterized by elevated blood sugar levels, affects millions worldwide. While medication plays a crucial role in managing diabetes, regular exercise is an equally important component of effective treatment. Exercise not only helps regulate blood sugar levels but also offers a myriad of other health benefits for individuals with diabetes.
Enhancing Insulin Sensitivity
Insulin, a hormone that allows cells to absorb glucose for energy, is often less effective in people with diabetes, leading to high blood sugar levels. Exercise can significantly improve insulin sensitivity, enabling cells to better utilize glucose, thereby lowering blood sugar. This effect can persist for hours after exercise, contributing to overall glycemic control.
Promoting Weight Management
Excess weight can worsen insulin resistance and increase the risk of diabetes complications. Exercise, particularly aerobic activities, can aid in weight loss or maintenance, further improving insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control.
Reducing Cardiovascular Risk
Diabetes significantly increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Exercise, by lowering blood pressure, improving cholesterol levels and enhancing blood circulation can substantially reduce cardiovascular risk.
Strengthening Muscles and Bones
Regular exercise, especially resistance training, helps build and maintain muscle mass and bone density, which can decline in people with diabetes. Strong muscles improve insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake, while healthy bones reduce the risk of fractures, a common complication of diabetes.
Enhancing Mental Well-being
Exercise is a powerful mood booster and stress reliever. Engaging in physical activity can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, improve sleep quality and promote overall mental well-being, which is often affected by diabetes.
Recommended Exercise Guidelines
Diabetes Australia recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week, spread throughout the week. Resistance training exercises should be performed at least two days per week, targeting all major muscle groups.
Incorporating Exercise into Lifestyle
Starting an exercise routine can seem daunting, but making gradual changes is key. Begin with short sessions and gradually increase the duration and intensity as fitness improves. Find activities you enjoy, such as brisk walking, swimming, cycling or dancing to make exercise a sustainable part of your lifestyle.
Exercise is not a cure for diabetes, but it is an indispensable tool for effective management. By incorporating regular physical activity into their lives, individuals with diabetes can experience improved blood sugar control, reduced risk of complications and enhanced overall health and well-being.