Originally Published: June 7, 2010 2:30 p.m.
News flash: Exercise is good for you. OK, that's not really a news flash but for someone with diabetes it's not only good for you, it's imperative! Diabetes is one of the few diseases that is mostly controlled by the person's lifestyle and food choices. A person with cancer can eat all the right foods, exercise 5 days a week, and do everything right and will still have a growing disease within them. Diabetes is different. First off, what is diabetes? According to the American Diabetes Association, type 1 diabetes is when the body does not produce insulin. In type 2 diabetes, either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin. Did I lose you at insulin? Think of insulin as keys, your body's cells as locks, and think of glucose as energy. Without insulin there are no keys, or not enough keys in which to open the locks that let the energy in. When glucose can't get into the cells, blood sugar rises because it is stuck in the blood with no place to go. So what's so bad about having too much sugar in your blood you may be asking? Sugar thickens the blood which makes it very difficult for all your blood vessels to soak in nutrients from the bloodstream. (My simplified version.)This is why people with diabetes are especially prone to heart disease, which is the number one killer of people with diabetes, peripheral vascular disease (PVD), and strokes. They also are at a higher risk of kidney disease (nephropathy), eye disease (retinopathy), and nerve disease (neuropathy). None of the fore-mentioned diseases are pleasant but I have seen the side effects of diabetes as a Diet Tech...still in training. What sticks in my mind the most are the skin ulcers that don't heal. I find it difficult to explain just how horrific and painful these look.Skin ulcers and poor wound healing are very common in diabetics due to their "thickened blood" which compromises their circulatory system. This is why diabetics are encouraged to check out the bottom of their feet "and all areas of their body" in case a wound begins to form. So now I have told you all the bad news. Here's the good news. Exercise improves the body's ability to receive glucose because muscles need a lot of glucose to function. Exercise tells the body's cells to increase "suction" capacity, thereby removing the sugar from the blood. (My simplified version again.)Wow! The human body is amazing. Exercise is especially helpful for those living with pre-diabetes because it, along with a healthy eating plan, may prevent that person from ever developing full on diabetes. Talk to your doctor about what type and what amount of exercise you should be doing but here are a few facts.According to WebMD:"In scientific studies, strength training has been found to improve insulin sensitivity in those individuals with diabetes to the same extent that aerobic exercise does. Extended periods of strength training improve blood sugar control as well as taking a diabetes drug. In fact, in those people with diabetes, strength training in combination with aerobic exercise may be even more beneficial."According to the American Diabetes Association:"Resistance exercise may be better than aerobic exercise for improving the physical health of individuals with type 2 diabetes.""Aerobic exercise increases your heart rate, works your muscles, and raises your breathing rate. For most people, it's best to aim for a total of about 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week. If you haven't been very active recently, you can start out with 5 or 10 minutes a day and work up to more time each week. Or split up your activity for the day-try a brisk 10-minute walk after each meal. If you're trying to lose weight, you may want to exercise more than 30 minutes a day. Here are some examples of aerobic exercise:Take a brisk walk (outside or inside on a treadmill) Go dancing Take a low-impact aerobics class Swim or do water aerobic exercises Try ice-skating or roller-skating Play tennis Stationary bicycle indoorsI'd love to hear about your diabetes story so please leave a message on this blog or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Peace and health be with you