By Daniel Thomson, Exercise Physiologist North Sydney
According to the World Health Organization, diabetes affects over 420 million people worldwide, with numbers expected to rise in the coming years. Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects the way the body processes glucose, a type of sugar that is the body’s main source of energy. There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Both types can benefit greatly from regular exercise, which can help manage blood sugar levels, increase insulin sensitivity, and reduce the risk of complications associated with diabetes.
How Exercise Can Help People with Diabetes
- Blood sugar management: Regular exercise can help manage blood sugar levels by increasing the body’s sensitivity to insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps regulate blood sugar levels. When the body becomes less sensitive to insulin, blood sugar levels can rise, leading to diabetes. Exercise can help increase insulin sensitivity, allowing the body to better manage blood sugar levels.
- Weight management: Maintaining a healthy weight is important for people with diabetes. Exercise can help with weight management by burning calories and building muscle mass. Maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce the risk of complications associated with diabetes, such as heart disease, stroke, and nerve damage.
- Cardiovascular health: People with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Exercise can help reduce this risk by improving cardiovascular health. Regular exercise can help lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol levels, and improve circulation, all of which can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Using an Exercise Physiologist to Help Manage Diabetes
An exercise physiologist is a healthcare professional who specialises in the study of how the body responds to exercise. They can work with people with diabetes to develop personalised exercise plans that are tailored to their individual needs and goals.
An exercise physiologist can help people with diabetes by:
- Assessing fitness levels: An exercise physiologist can assess an individual’s fitness levels and develop a personalised exercise plan that takes into account their current fitness levels, medical history, and any complications associated with diabetes.
- Providing guidance and support: An exercise physiologist can provide guidance and support throughout the exercise program. They can help people with diabetes stay motivated and on track with their exercise goals.
- Monitoring progress: An exercise physiologist can monitor progress and make adjustments to the exercise plan as needed. This can help ensure that the exercise plan is effective and safe for the individual with diabetes.
Exercise can be a powerful tool for managing diabetes. Regular exercise can help manage blood sugar levels, improve cardiovascular health, and reduce the risk of complications associated with diabetes. An exercise physiologist can provide guidance and support to help people with diabetes develop personalised exercise plans that are safe and effective.
How to get started with exercise
Starting an exercise routine can be daunting, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed or unmotivated due to your diabetes. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Talk to your healthcare provider: Before starting any exercise routine, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider. They can help you determine what type of exercise is safe and appropriate for you, and can offer guidance on how to manage your diabetes during exercise.
- Start small: If you’re feeling overwhelmed, start with small, manageable goals. Even a short walk around the block can be a good place to start. Gradually increase the duration and intensity of your exercise routine over time.
- Find an exercise buddy: Having a friend or family member to exercise with can be a great source of motivation and accountability. You can also join a diabetes support group or exercise class to meet others who are also managing diabetes through exercise.
- Hire an exercise physiologist: An exercise physiologist can help you develop a safe and effective exercise plan that’s tailored to your individual needs and goals. They can also provide guidance and support to help you stay motivated and on track.
- Celebrate your successes: Don’t forget to celebrate your successes, no matter how small they may seem. Every step in the right direction is a victory, and acknowledging your progress can help keep you motivated and on track.
- Colberg, S. R., Sigal, R. J., Yardley, J. E., Riddell, M. C., Dunstan, D. W., Dempsey, P. C., … & Tate, D. F. (2016). Physical activity/exercise and diabetes: a position statement of the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care, 39(11), 2065-2079.
- Chudyk, A., Petrella, R. J., & Maly, M. R. (2011). Effects of exercise on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis. Diabetes Care, 34(5), 1228-1237.
- American College of Sports Medicine. (2018). ACSM’s guidelines for exercise testing and prescription. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.