Battle Diabetes With Exercise


If you are one of the 29.1 million Americans living with diabetes, you already know the importance of a good diet and regular exercise routine. Just in case you’ve been told you’re pre-diabetic or you’re just generally unaware, then you should know the important role exercise potentially plays in your future. Here are the compulsory scary statistics from the National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2014 and statistics/#sthash.vcFFppi5.dpuf.

  • Prevalence: 9.3 percent of the population has diabetes. In 2010 that figure was 8.3 percent.
  • Undiagnosed: Of the 29.1 million, 21.0 million were diagnosed and 8.1 million were undiagnosed. In 2010 the figures were 18.8 million and 7.0 million.
  • Prevalence in Seniors: The percentage of Americans age 65 and older remains high at 25.9 percent or 11.8 million seniors (diagnosed and undiagnosed).
  • New Cases: The incidence of diabetes in 2012 was 1.7 million new diagnoses/year. About 208,000 Americans under age 20 are estimated to have diagnosed diabetes, approximately 0.25 percent of that population. 
  • Pre-diabetes: In 2012, 86 million Americans age 20 and older had pre-diabetes; this is up from 79 million in 2010.
  • Economic Costs of Diabetes: $245 billion: Total costs of diagnosed diabetes in the United States in 2012: $176 billion for direct medical costs $69 billion in reduced productivity
There are many more statistics, but I think the point has been made that this is something to be taken very seriously. The good news is that there are simple lifestyle changes that can have a very big impact. Exercise can help, and depending on the severity of your present condition, it could help significantly. As with all exercise advice speak to your doctor first before starting any exercise program. You also need to have your blood glucose and other diabetic complications under control.

Diabetes and Exercise 
By now you have to be asking yourself, “How does exercise help control diabetes?” Here is what it does. 

Your body takes the foods you eat and converts some of it into a type of sugar called glucose. Glucose is a fuel source. Diabetes causes these sugars to build up in the blood. Your body will use
these as a source of energy when you exercise. Exercise helps control blood sugar levels in the blood stream and lessons the impact of the diabetic condition. Exercise also helps control your weight.

Being overweight puts additional demands on the body for energy, but your body has problems delivering that energy due to the increased amount of tissue (i.e. fat) that it must travel through. If you have your weight under control, that can  contribute significantly to lessoning the effects of diabetes. Controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels is also very important. If all these things are under control you also lesson the likelihood of heart disease. 

So, what have we learned? When you target and control glucose levels through diet and exercise you help to reduce body fat and improve your cardiovascular health.

What do I need to do? 
Walk, swim or cycle, it doesn’t really matter what you do. Anything that is repetitive and raises the heart rate works. Use an age adjusted heart rate target zone. The calculation is 220-your age times 50-70%. For instance a 50 year old man would exercise at a heart rate of 220-50= 170 x (50%) = 85 beats per minute to (x 70%) 119 bpm. The numbers may change depending on the formula used or the desired aerobic exercise effects, but suffice it to say that if you’re a complete beginner and you’re panting from moderate activity then you’re probably working hard enough to see some results. 

How often you exercise will depend to some extent on your intensity. The program example below takes time and intensity levels into consideration.
  • 150 minutes of at least moderateintensity cardiorespiratory exercise each week and/or at least 90 minutes of vigorous intensity ardiorespiratory exercise each week.
  • Exercise on at least three days each week with no more than two consecutive days without exercise. These guidelines may be achieved through various combinations of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise.
  • It’s fine to be active in blocks of 10 minutes or more throughout your day and week, just add them all up.
   Here’s an example. Exercise at a moderate intensity for 30 minutes twice a week with an additional 20 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise on two more occasions in the same week.

Other Exercise Considerations 
Some people who get enough exercise are able to take less medicine. Talk to your doctor about this; never alter medications without your doctor’s advice.

Some types of exercise can be harmful if your diabetes is causing other problems, such as problems with your feet. Your doctor can tell you whether you need to avoid certain kinds of exercise. Always wear good shoes and socks while you exercise.

Ask your doctor how often you need to check your blood sugar. If you take certain pills or use insulin for diabetes, you may need to check your blood sugar level before and right after you exercise.

Weight training is also very important to controlling diabetes but was not the focus of this article. For recommendations on appropriate weight training exercise contact your local chapter of the diabetes Association or speak to your doctor.

Be Prepared
Have someone with you when you exercise if possible. You may need help if your blood sugar level drops below the target range.

  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after your exercise session. 
  • Wear medical identification at all times. You can get medical identification, such as a bracelet, from a pharmacy or on the Internet. 
  • Carry a quick-sugar food, like glucose tablets or raisins, with you while you exercise. You may have symptoms of low blood sugar while you exercise or up to 24 hours afteryou stop.

The Final Word
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