Home » Health » Exercise Helps Manage Diabetes

When most people hear about exercise they believe it is only meant to enhance the physical fitness of the individual.

Most people never really consider exercise as a means to prevent disease. Furthermore, the majority of people believe exercise must only be done by those people who concentrate on sport or those who are looking forward to losing weight or to get that enviable body shape.

However, in essence, exercise must be done by everyone as it helps prevent, or in some cases, controls several diseases, including diabetes, which has been found to be a “silent killer”.

In combating or preventing diabetes, exercise is extremely important because it allows the body to fully utilise nutrients and also become more responsive to insulin.

Exercise facilitates the distribution of sugar in the body, moving glucose to where it is supposed to go instead of lingering in the blood.

There is a misconception among most people, especially those who suffer from Type II diabetes, that blood sugar control stops when they stop exercising.

However, by contrast, the body actually reaps the health benefits of exercise, both during the workout and for several hours after – something commonly referred to as over-time exercise. The importance of exercise in diabetes patients can be put into perspective.

Given the most standard or basic level of physical exercise, the benefits for those who have been diagnosed and those not yet suffering from it cannot be overstated.

This is because during exercise, there is a g influence on several muscles and this increase in muscle activity raises the uptake of glucose which, ultimately, has a favourable effect on the blood-glucose levels.

However, this positive effect does not end there. Even after the exercise, the body still manages to self-regulate the blood glucose level for up to 16 hours.

Therefore, and according to one diabetes journal, just 15 minutes of aerobic exercise, not to mention swimming, walking or intensity exercising, will increase the “insulin sensitivity” for 12 to 16 hours.

Fifteen minutes of basic exercise will reap up to 16 hours of benefit. Exercise is important, therefore, in preventing and controlling diabetes.

In the long term, exercise has many benefits for diabetics. Basic exercise leads to better blood sugar control.

This is because exercise will reduce excess blood glucose by making use of it from the blood and muscle as fuel and by making insulin more sensitive, effective and efficient at storing glucose in a form known as glycogen in body tissue and organs such as muscles and liver.

Furthermore, if you are taking insulin, you may experience insulin reduction as more efficient blood sugar control will reduce the requirement for insulin.

However, a weight training exercise will have an even more profound effect on diabetes and insulin requirements by building extra muscle tissue which provides an increased storage area for glucose, helping prevent and control Type II diabetes.

Regular exercise will also lower blood pressure and bad (LDL) cholesterol, higher good (HDL) cholesterol, improved circulation, weight loss (if you are overweight), reduced stress levels, more energy, as well as a ger heart, muscles and bones.

However, despite the above mentioned benefits of exercise in preventing and controlling diabetes, the following becomes vital for those who are already suffering from either Type I or Type II diabetes:

Extra care needs to be taken and people with diabetes need to be extra careful when they exercise.

Firstly, you need to check their blood sugar before, during and after workouts as this will help you see what effect the physical activity has done to your blood sugar.

Diabetics must not exercise if blood sugar levels are too low or too high.

Before deciding on starting any exercise programme, you need to check with your doctor so as to make sure that your medication ratios are not clashing with your blood sugar levels.

Your doctor will evaluate you and offer safe exercise options.

You may have limited exercise choices if you have certain diabetes complications.

Having decided on an exercise programme, one must consider the pace at which they will go at it.

One would need to start slow, gradually increasing the amount of time and intensity of their workouts. Therefore, it is aised to begin with five to ten minutes at a time and work up to 30 minute sessions, at least three days a week.

Check your feet after each workout and if you notice any sores or blisters, let your doctor know. Also wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes to reduce the risk of foot problems and drink water before, during and after exercise to prevent dehydration.

It is very important to know the safe blood sugar levels for exercise when you take insulin or other diabetes related medications. This is because most diabetics forget that the more you exercise, the greater the risk of getting into a hypoglycemic attack because of the energy that would have been used during exercise.

To avoid getting into hypoglycemic attacks, it is always important for diabetics to keep a hypo kit and other low blood sugar supplies such as glucose, sweets and chocolates nearby during exercise.

On the other hand, diabetics should also not exercise when their blood glucose levels are too high (hyperglycemia). This is mainly due to the fact that when you have high blood sugar, your body breaks down fat to make up for the missing insulin.

This process produces ketones (substances made when the body breaks down fats for energy), which are regarded as a dangerous compound. Therefore, do not exercise if you are positive for ketones.

Yemurai Machirori is an ambassador for Diabetes in Zimbabwe (recognised as Young Leaders in Diabetes by the International Diabetes Federation). She writes in her personal capacity.

Source : The Herald