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Managing Type 2 Diabetes with Exercise

Diabetes is a condition which results in the build-up of sugar in the blood instead of being used for energy by the cells of our body. There are several types of diabetes, however, Type 2 Diabetes is the most common form, affecting 85-90% of all people with diabetes. Type 2 Diabetes occurs when the pancreas is not producing enough insulin and/or the insulin is not working effectively, due to insulin resistance. Pre-diabetes means your blood glucose (also called blood sugar) levels are higher than normal. When your blood glucose levels reach a certain level, you have diabetes.

Why is exercise important?

Everybody benefits from regular physical activity. For people with diabetes, exercise plays a vital role in the management of the condition. Increasing physical activity in combination with improving diet and reducing weight by 5-10% can prevent Type 2 Diabetes in 58% of cases. Making healthier lifestyle choices is important for people with Type 2 Diabetes as it can help with the management of the condition and reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications.

When we exercise, our muscles contract. Contracting muscle triggers an alternate pathway in the cells to allow glucose to enter without needing insulin. Both aerobic and resistance exercise can stimulate this pathway.

Exercise can also improve the way muscles respond to insulin. When someone with Type 2 Diabetes performs moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (walking, swimming, bike-riding etc), the amount of glucose being taken into the cells for fuel exceeds the amount of glucose the liver can produce, resulting in a drop in blood glucose levels. Whilst the effects of exercise are dependent on duration, intensity and diet, a single session of aerobic exercise can increase insulin action and glucose tolerance for 24-72 hours.

Progressive resistance training, performed twice weekly, resulted in a 46.3% increase in insulin action, a 7.1% decrease in fasting blood glucose levels and a significant reduction in visceral fat. Resistance training enhances muscle mass. Greater muscle mass means there is greater capacity to take the glucose from the blood into the cells.

In addition to improving insulin sensitivity and blood glucose levels, exercise can also play a role in reducing high blood pressure, reduce stress and help to maintain a healthy weight.

Where do I start?

It can be overwhelming to start an exercise program, especially if you have diabetes, as there is an increased risk of complications. It is therefore important to exercise right for the condition. A combination of both aerobic and resistance exercise is the most effective method for diabetes management. Research has found as little as 10 minutes can have a positive effect. Start small and slowly build up your routine.

To avoid potential problems, blood glucose needs to be checked before, during and after exercise.

Prior to starting any exercise program, you should see your GP to identify any diabetic related complications.

An assessment and evaluation of your body can be conducted by an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, and an exercise program tailored to your individual requirements and goals can then be developed. Our Exercise Physiologist is also a trained Beat It facilitator, which is a group-based program designed for people living with or at risk of developing diabetes. The Beat It program is an eight week lifestyle program which involves exercise sessions and education sessions on healthy living.

         Beat It for Diabetes

If you have been diagnosed with, or at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, call Southside Physiotherapy on 9527 4099 and book in with our Accredited Exercise Physiologist to help you beat your diabetes!

Colberg SR, Sigal RJ, Fernhall B, et al. Exercise and type 2 diabetes: the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Diabetes Association: joint position statement. Diabetes Care. 2010;33(12):e147-67.


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