Doctors prescribe exercise to for sufferers or those at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a condition that affects the way your body uses blood sugar. Coupled with ahealthy diet, exercise is an important preventive and management solution, but only if you are getting enough, according to research.
Today, more is understood about the benefits of regular exercise on type 2 diabetes. It is known that exercising helps to control the condition by the muscles’ use of energy during contraction. To meet this energy need, sugar is removed from your blood during and after exercise, which lowers your blood sugar level.
While many adults over 40 with type 2 diabetics have adopted a regular fitness regime on their doctor’s advice, a study by the Mayo Clinic shows that only frequent exercise – about30 minutes of exercise most days of the week –effectively lowers blood sugar. Regular, but less frequent, exercise did now show the same benefits.
Exercise also reduces blood sugar by increasing your sensitivity to insulin, allowing your body to use available insulin more efficiently to bring sugar into your cells.
“As people age, they typically experience a decline in insulin sensitivity, a key underlying factor that makes them more prone to becoming diabetic,” said the Mayo Clinic’s lead researcher Prof K Sreekumaran Nair.
With a decrease in insulin sensitivity, blood glucose levels increase. High blood glucose levels, typical in diabetes, can damage virtually every organ in the body. Increased insulin sensitivity helps regulate blood glucose and prevent or reduce its potentially harmful effects.
Along with a healthy eating plan, frequent exercise can reduce your need for glucose-lowering medication and increase sensitivity to insulin, as the study proved. In fact, some people with type 2 diabetes manage their diabetes entirely through diet and exercise alone, but you should never stop your medication without your doctor’s advice.
Before you start Always talk to your doctor first if you have been inactive and plan to start a fitness programme. You will be informed of any precautions you need to take and will probably be given a physical check that focuses on your heart and blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, blood supply to your legs and feet, nervous system and blood pressure.
Diabetes-related conditions can make a difference in the types and intensity of exercise.
Your doctor will advise you if you have any of the following conditions:
Eye conditions If you have active proliferative diabetic retinopathy – abnormal growth of blood vessels on your retina – strenuous activity could lead to bleeding or retinal detachment. Depending on the severity of your retinopathy, you may need to avoid such activities as weightlifting, boxing, heavy competitive sports, jogging and racket sports.
Foot conditions If you have reduced sensation in your feet because of peripheral neuropathy, you have less ability to feel pain. This means you might continue exercising even when it’s causing skin ulcerations or small fractures of your feet. You might need to avoid such activities as treadmills, jogging, step exercises and prolonged walking. On the other hand, swimming, rowing, biking and other non-weight-bearing exercises are generally safe.
Impaired circulation If you have impaired circulation to your legs, you may experience pain or cramping when you walk. Although uncomfortable, it is still safe to walk and can improve the circulation in the legs. Walk until you experience some discomfort, rest and resume walking again. With time, as the circulation improves, you’ll notice you can walk for longer distances without stopping. You just have to walk slowly and gradually increase your speed.
Age-related conditions Because diabetes can contribute to the degeneration of muscles, ligaments, bones and joints caused by ageing and disuse, older adults might have to restrict their activities. Your doctor can advise you of any restrictions based on your pre-activity physical examination.