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Exercise For Diabetes – What’s Best?

Managing Diabetes With Exercise  – Exercise Physiologists Are The Experts

Diabetes, specifically Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) is a condition where insulin deficiency, resistance or both occurs within the blood. This causes higher glucose build-up as the glucose molecules can’t be transferred into the muscle without insulin. Think of this process as insulin being a key to unlock a door into the muscle, for the glucose to then travel through. Your pancreas isn’t creating enough keys for the glucose that’s within the bloodstream.

Diabetes can cause a wide variety of problems if it is left unmanaged. Unmanaged T2DM can result in peripheral neuropathy (nerve problems within your arms and legs), hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar), cardiometabolic problems (digestion and heart/heart flow health), foot ulcers and many more.

Behavioural Modification Is Important When Managing Diabetes        

Diabetes can usually be well managed using a combination of diet, exercise and the right medication. Consistency is key when it comes to diet and exercise, so using some basic “Behaviour Modification Techniques” are important (see our recent post on this!). The best plan of attack is to kickstart into a healthy diet and get regular physical activity. You should also work with your GP to make sure your medication is correct and you are being screened regularly for any complications or disease progression.

Exercise Is a Key Treatment For Diabetes

Exercise programs for diabetes management are best prescribed by an Exercise Physiologist (EP), and individualised to address your current condition in a way that is both safe and effective. The current research states that performing regular cardiobased and resistance exercise is beneficial for T2DM management.

Cardio Exercise For Diabetes Management

Cardio based (aerobic) exercise prescribed at a moderate intensity for >150min per week has shown positive results in reducing cardiometabolic risk factors that occur from T2DM. Research has further shown that consistent engagement in higher volumes and combination of HIIT and continuous aerobic exercise facilitates weight loss and increases insulin sensitivity for use in your muscles. These are important benefits in the long-term management of diabetes.

Resistance (Strength) Exercise For Diabetes Management

Similar to aerobic training, resistance exercise has shown positive results in increasing insulin sensitivity. Performing resistance training at a moderate to high intensity (7-8/10 rate of perceived exertion (RPE)) is the key threshold for physiological adaptations within the body such as increasing insulin sensitivity and total energy expenditure. It has also been shown to improve quality of life factors in many population groups by improving your ability to do functional and everyday tasks. The likelihood of benefits is increased when performing exercise at a frequency of more than 2 days per week.

Types of Exercise

As outlined above there are benefits from both aerobic and resistance training. The good thing is that there is such a wide variety of ways you can exercise using these two forms! It’s not just getting on a treadmill or pushing and pulling weighted machines. Aerobic exercises can come from any form of continuous movement that brings your heartrate up to the required threshold for cardio adaptations. These can include, but certainly are not limited to; walking, running, rowing, fast paced sports, and circuit style exercising.

Once you start to advance your training you can start to implement HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) exercise as well, which has shown positive results in increasing insulin sensitivity and a higher metabolic rate after exercise.

Like aerobic exercise there are plenty of ways to perform resistance exercise. Essentially it is performing any movement against resistance to the muscles performing it.  It is advisable to have an exercise physiologist assess your current capacity and explain the safety precautions of performing exercise to you before commencing an exercise program.

Exercising Safely

There are a few safety considerations to consider before, during and after exercise. Current blood sugar levels is one of them. Making sure you’re not in a potential state for a hypo- or hyper- glycaemic event is important. A hypoglycaemic event involves your blood sugar level being below normal (<4.0mmol/L) and you should monitor for signs and symptoms such as dizziness, shakiness, confusion, and others. Hyperglycaemia is the opposite; this involves your blood sugar levels being too high. Symptoms to watch out for here are feeling excessively thirsty, frequently passing large volumes of urine, feeling tired or nauseous, and blurred vision.

Essentially exercise will help with the uptake of the blood sugar and lower your levels. It improves your insulin sensitivity and helps keep your blood sugar levels stable.

Starting Your Exercise Physiology Program To Manage Your Diabetes

Your exercise physiologist will thoroughly assess you and go through signs, symptoms and contraindications for your condition. They will then design a program that is right for you by taking into account your current fitness level, degree of diabetes, any injury concerns, your personal preference for which type of exercise you enjoy, and your access to exercise facilities. This makes sure your program is safe, effective, and able to be maintained for the long term. Call us today to book your assessment and begin your journey to successfully and effectively managing your diabetes.


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