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Blog: Diabetes and Exercise

Updated: Feb 25, 2022

We all have heard about lifestyle diseases. One of them is Diabetes.

Unfortunately, India is known as the Diabetes capital of the world, and it is mainly attributed to lifestyle changes. There are two main types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2. Let's see how these types are handled with exercise.

Type 1 diabetes is characterized by the pancreas making too little or no insulin. An individual with diabetes type 1 must inject insulin throughout the day to control glucose levels. Type 2 diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes or sugar disease, is characterized by the pancreas not producing enough insulin to control glucose levels or the cells not responding to insulin. When a cell does not respond to insulin, it is known as insulin resistance. For a person diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, exercise and weight control are prescribed as measures to help with insulin resistance. If this does not control glucose levels, then medication is prescribed. The risk factors contributing to diabetes type 2 include inactivity, high cholesterol, obesity, and hypertension. Inactivity alone is a very strong risk factor that has been proven to lead to diabetes type 2.

Exercise will positively affect diabetes type 2 while improving insulin sensitivity. Whereas type 1 cannot be controlled by an exercise program alone. Over 90% of individuals are diagnosed with diabetes type 2. Hence, an active lifestyle is recommended because exercise causes the body to process glucose faster, thus lowering blood sugar. The more intense the activity is, the faster the body will utilize glucose. Therefore, it is important to understand the differences in type 1 and type 2 diabetes training. However, an individual with diabetes needs to check with a physician before beginning an exercise program, as it can vary from person to person.

When training with a person with diabetes, it is important to understand the dangers of injecting insulin immediately before exercise. An individual with diabetes type 1 injecting their average amount of insulin for a sedentary situation can pose the risk of hypoglycemia or insulin shock during a workout. General exercise guidelines for type 1 are as follows:

  • Allow adequate rest during exercise sessions to prevent high blood pressure.

  • Use low impact exercises and avoid heavy weight lifting.

  • Always have a supply of carbohydrates nearby.

If blood sugar levels get too low, the individual may feel shaky, disoriented, hungry, anxious, become irritable or experience trembling. Consuming a carbohydrate snack or beverage will alleviate these symptoms in a matter of minutes.

Before engaging in exercise, test the blood sugar levels to ensure that they are not below the 80 to 100 mg/dl range and not above 250 mg/dl. Glucose levels should also be tested before, during, after and three to five hours after exercise. During this recovery period (3-5 hours after exercise), people with diabetes need to consume ample carbohydrates in order to prevent hypoglycemia.

For individuals with diabetes type 2, exercise will significantly benefit from its positive effects on insulin sensitivity. Proper exercise and nutrition are the best forms of prevention for people with diabetics type 2. Training protocols need to be repeated almost daily to help with sustaining insulin sensitivity. To prevent hypoglycemia, progressively work up to the strenuous activity. As with individuals with diabetes type 1, carbohydrates should also be present during training for individuals with diabetes type 2. It assists in raising blood sugar levels if the individual becomes low.

Since there is no permanent cure for Diabetes, exercise plays a vital role in regulating or preventing diabetes simultaneously with proper nutrition. Thus, it's never too late to start a healthy lifestyle and stop the worse.

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