Exercise and Type 2 Diabetes

Imagine if the cure for diabetes could be as easy as extracting that phantom “sweet tooth.” While there is no cure for type 1 diabetes, data shows that type 2 diabetes can be prevented or at least postponed if Canadians would get active. According to the Canadian Diabetes Association website, exercise reduces the risk of getting type 2 diabetes by 58% and for people age 60 and older, exercise reduces the risk by 71%. Those are significant statistics. Health Canada states: “Type 2 diabetes is one of the fastest growing diseases in Canada with more than 60,000 new cases yearly. Nine out of ten people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. The good news is that type 2 diabetes can be prevented or postponed by making healthy lifestyle choices.” So, while removing your sweet tooth won’t do the trick, increasing your steps will. That is good news!

The unquestionable conclusion—Physical activity has a direct affect on diabetes.

Although exercise is of benefit to us all, it also has special advantages if you have type 2 diabetes. A very important advantage is that regular exercise improves your body’s sensitivity to insulin and helps regulate your blood glucose levels.

Important Considerations

Before you start your exercise program as a Type 2 Diabetic, here are a few important considerations.

First – think safety.

If you have been inactive for some time, talk to your doctor or contact us at IHM before starting any exercise program that is more strenuous than brisk walking.

Wear comfortable, proper-fitting shoes (diabetes can affect peripheral circulation and careful care of your feet is very important to prevent sores and blisters that may not heal easily).

Wear your Medic Alert bracelet or necklace.

Listen to your body. Note if you are very short of breath or have chest pain, and contact your primary healthcare provider immediately if you notice either of these symptoms.

Although exercise is of benefit to us all, it also has special advantages if you have type 2 diabetes.

Monitor your blood glucose before, during and after several hours of exercise to see how your activity efforts affect your blood glucose levels.

Carry some form of fast-acting carbohydrate with you in case you need to treat low blood sugar, for example, Life Savers or glucose tablets.

Second— include both aerobic and resistance exercises as both are important for controlling diabetes.

Aerobic exercises such as brisk walking, running, swimming, dancing, hockey, and tennis work your heart and lungs and carry oxygen to your muscles.

Resistance exercises (lifting weights) increase muscle strength and complement the benefits of aerobic exercise. For weight lifting, start slowly and get some instruction first.

Your goal should be to complete at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise each week (30 minutes, 5 days a week). Remember to start slowly, such as 5 – 10 minutes per day, and gradually build up to your goal. Multiple, shorter exercise sessions of at least 10 minutes each are as useful as a single longer session of the same intensity!

Finally – KEEP GOING!

Habits are hard to change – be prepared with a plan for those moments when your motivation sags, such as a good friend for accountability and choosing an activity you really enjoy. Reward each small success with a celebration.

Making the decision to become more physically active is one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself and the people who love you!