Diabetes and Exercise | Total Performance Physical Therapy

Diabetes and Exercise

June 6, 2019

Diabetes is a disease that affects over 29.1 million people in the United States. Of the 29.1 million people, 8.1 million people are undiagnosed and unaware that they suffer from this condition.  Diabetes occurs when there are high levels of sugar in the blood stream over a long period of time that begins to affect the way cells in our body function. If not dealt with, this condition can lead to life threatening complications, but with the correct management you can live a long and healthy life!

Type 1 diabetes (previously known as juvenile diabetes) is commonly diagnosed in young children and adolescents. This condition occurs when the body cannot produce insulin, a hormone within the body responsible for helping break down the sugars we eat into energy for everyday life. Those with Type 1 diabetes have to take insulin daily, eat a health & well balanced diet, check their blood sugar throughout the day, and exercise regularly.

Type 2 diabetes, the most prevalent form of diabetes, is commonly developed in middle aged and older individuals who are overweight or obese, but as the rate of childhood obesity increase, the number of children diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes has risen as well. Unlike Type 1 diabetes, the body is producing insulin, but it is unable to use the insulin effectively to break down the sugar we eat and turn it into energy.  Many individuals with Type II diabetes can manage their disease through exercise and eating well, but some may require the use of diabetic medications to help improve the management of this condition.

Managing Diabetes through Exercise

Physical activity and exercise are key in helping manage your diabetes.  It is recommended that those with diabetes should exercise at least 3 times a week for ≥ 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise (30 minutes a day) or ≥ 90 minutes a week of vigorous intensity exercise. These bouts of exercise eahc do not have to be done consecutively, but done in small ten minute bouts throughout the day.

During your workout, there are a few basic ways to help you monitor your exercise intensity without having to constantly monitor your heart rate. Physical activity is considered moderate when you are breathing quickly, but are not out of breath and you can still talk, but would be unable to sing. With vigorous physical activity, you are breathing deep and quickly and you are unable to talk normally without stopping.

Studies have shown that for those with Type II diabetes, exercising regularly, eating well, and loosing weight can decrease the likelihood of taking diabetic related medications and help prevent common complication associated with diabetes. Some of the most common complications include heart and blood vessel damage, nerve damage, kidney damage, eye damage, foot damage, and skin and mouth conditions all caused by high levels of sugar in the blood. When there are high levels of sugar in the blood, it prevents the cells in the body from functioning optimally.

Physical activity helps the body better utilize the sugar in your bloodstream by turning it into energy resulting in an immediate decrease is your blood sugar levels. Physical activity also helps improve the storage of sugar in muscle to be utilized later for energy.  Decreasing in the levels of sugar in the blood, help decrease your dependence on diabetic related medications and decreases the likelihood of experiencing any of the complications discussed above. Regular exercise has been shown to improve the quality of life for those with diabetes reporting decreases in pain and increases in their ability to carry out daily activities with less difficulty.

Remember, that any movement is better then no movement and there are endless benefits from moving a little each day.  So start off small, like walking twice a day for 10-15 minutes and add additional 5 minutes on each week. Before you know it, you’ll be reaching your goals, improving your overall health, and managing your diabetes better.

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