The importance of exercise for diabetesWednesday, 22 December 2021
We’re always told that exercise is good for us, but what exactly does it do?
Exercise is one of the most effective ways to manage your diabetes. Your body uses glucose as a source of energy. The more physically active you are, the more energy you burn. Imagine your muscles are a sponge, and whenever you are physically active that sponge soaks up the glucose in the bloodstream in order to support the energy demands required for movement. The more glucose you use, and the closer you regulate your blood glucose levels, the lower your risk of developing diabetes-related complications.
Not only does exercise use the glucose in your blood for energy, but it also helps to ensure that your body can soak up this glucose even when you’re not active.
Insulin as a key
Think of your insulin as a key that unlocks the doors of your cells to allow energy (glucose) to enter. Exercise can help to improve your cells’ sensitivity to insulin, meaning your cells are more effective at recognising your insulin keys and allowing energy to enter the cell through that door. In some cases, this can last as long as 48 hours after exercise. Exercise can also allow your muscles to soak that energy up from your blood through a ‘back door’ pathway that doesn’t require any insulin at all while you perform the exercise. This, in combination with the overall reduction in blood glucose levels, means that your body won’t need to work as hard to produce insulin and process your glucose.
In the end, exercise leads to reductions in blood glucose in both the short and long term, and improvements in your body’s ability to manage glucose! The longer you can manage this, the lower the risk of developing diabetes-related health complications.
The benefits don’t stop
But the benefits of exercise don’t stop there! Exercise is a great way to manage your heart and lung health, improve your strength and your capacity to complete daily activities. It helps reduce your risk of falls, maintain and improves your muscle mass, improves sleep quality, mental health, and your memory and cognition. Exercise is the best bang for your buck when it comes to managing your overall health and wellbeing. The potential improvements in your health and quality of life are limitless.
How much exercise should you do?
Now that we know the why of exercise, we can discuss the how. How much exercise should you be doing? How do you get started? Here are a few tips to get the ball rolling this year.
Consult with a professional
You don’t need to do it alone! Seek the advice of an Accredited Exercise Physiologist to get started. It gives you the opportunity to ask any questions that you might have prior to commencing your exercise journey. You can contact an Exercise Physiologist through the NDSS Helpline (1800 637 700), the Exercise and Sports Science Australia directory (https://www.essa.org.au/find-aep/), or by speaking with your GP.
Develop a plan
Did you know you’re 42% more likely to achieve a goal if you write it down? Developing a plan is a great way to ensure your success when beginning or continuing your exercise journey. A plan can help keep you accountable and recognise any challenges you may come across!
Start slowly, and find what works best for you
There’s a common misconception that there are certain types of exercises that are better than others, or that you won’t see any of the benefits of exercise unless you leave your exercise sessions dripping in sweat. This is simply not true. Any physical activity is better than none, and the type that works best for you, is the best type of all.
Accredited Exercise Physiologist