Diabetes Awareness Month: Exercise to Control Those Sugars!

Photo by Celso Flores via Flickr

Photo by Celso Flores via Flickr

Blair sighed as she closed the door behind her and dropped her keys on the hall table.  The news from the doctor had not been surprising, but it had not been what she had wanted to hear either.  Dr. Nguyen had come right out and said that if she didn’t change her sedentary lifestyle, she could develop type 2 diabetes like her parents.  She couldn’t ignore her family history any longer.  She was forty now and had been pretty sedentary for the past twenty years.  And her diet was nothing to write home about either, she thought ruefully.

Blair wasn’t a big fan of exercise, but she liked the alternative of testing her blood sugar and injecting herself with insulin even less.  Time to be more active and make some nutritional changes, she thought as her eyes scanned past the bags of cookies and boxes of mac ‘n cheese in the pantry as she looked for something healthy for dinner.  Tonight she’d throw out some of the junk food and find her exercise clothes.  Tomorrow she’d go shopping for some healthier food and start walking.  Anything to avoid needles, she thought with a shudder.

Most people are aware that diet plays an important role in preventing and managing type 2 diabetes, but did you know that exercise is just as important?

How does exercise help with type 2 diabetes?
Physical activity is important for so many health reasons.  Studies have shown that exercise contributes to a longer, healthier, happier life.  In the case of people with borderline diabetes, exercise can help prevent the development of full blown diabetes.  And for those that already have diabetes, it can help control it.  These benefits are not limited to aerobic exercise though.  Both aerobic exercise and strength training have been found to be beneficial for preventing and managing type 2 diabetes.

Here are 3 ways regular exercise can help with type 2 diabetes:

  1. Controls blood sugar: Exercise improves the body’s use of insulin.  When you exercise, the muscles that are being used become more sensitive to the circulating insulin and are thus able to take up blood sugar more easily and efficiently.
  2. Improves insulin sensitivity: Exercise helps decrease excess body fat, encouraging weight loss and improving insulin sensitivity.
  3. May reduce need for medications: Scientific studies have found that extended periods of strength training can have as much effect on blood sugar control as taking a diabetes medication.

If I have type 2 diabetes, should I see a doctor prior to beginning an exercise program?
Yes, it is important to talk to your medical provider about your exercise goals prior to beginning an exercise program. Your doctor knows your medical history and will go over what exercises are appropriate and safe for you to do and give you some exercise tips and precautions specific to your situation.  In some cases, certain types of exercise can spike blood sugar, so checking with your doctor first is important.

Your doctor may ask you to monitor your blood sugar level prior, during and after exercise or ask you to exercise at certain times of the day depending on your meal and medication times.  Your doctor may also adjust your medication dosages or recommend altering your carbohydrate intake to keep your blood sugar levels in an acceptable range prior, during and after exercise.  That is important because your body is unable to regulate your blood sugar anymore and your diet, exercise and medications have to act in concert to maintain the right balance.  The doctor should discuss all of this with you during your visit and address possible problems that could arise with exercise and ways to deal with those situations if they occur.

The bottom line:
Everyone should exercise in some way.  It is a great way to help prevent type 2 diabetes or manage it if they have it already.  Exercise will help with weight control and controlling blood sugar levels, both of which are important in preventing and managing type 2 diabetes.  So, keep up the exercise and keep those sugars under control!

Comments (2)

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  1. Maria Isabel says:

    You are right. Exercise makes you feel good whenever you do. In my family there is diabetes and exercise as well as a good diet are a good way to help control it.

  2. […] July 2008 ← Diabetes Awareness Month: Exercise to Control Those Sugars! […]

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