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Diabetes. What is it, and how can exercise support someone who faces it daily?

DIABETES.  What is it, and how can exercise support someone who faces it daily?                        

By:  Tom Burns, CPT, SGX, Pn1.    FYZICAL Fitness, Indianapolis, IN

I’m sure everyone has heard the term diabetes, but does everyone know what it means? If not, allow me to cover some of the basics for you.  Diabetes mellitus (the official name) is a metabolic disorder in the body.  It’s the result of abnormal insulin production in the pancreas, or the diminished peripheral action of insulin.  It can have a heavy impact on the body’s heart, vascular system, eyes, kidneys, and nervous system.

For those without diabetes, the body normally releases insulin in the pancreas in response to a rise in blood glucose following the intake and digestion of food.  

There are two types of Diabetes.  Type I and Type II.  Type I usually results from an auto-immune response in which the body’s immune system mistakenly destroys the insulin producing cells in the pancreas.  Type II is normally associated more with those living a sedentary lifestyle (aka not exercising and eating properly).  Primary risk factors for Type II include age, family history, ethnicity, obesity, high alcohol intake, high fat diet, as well as other factors.  Of these two types, it’s Type II  that reports in as the majority of cases in the US.    

Pre-diabetes is also of concern in the health industry.  This is when blood glucose levels are elevated beyond normal levels, and such individuals have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in their life.

There are some common steps one can take in controlling diabetes.  Consistency in a daily routine is key.  When are meals eaten; the amount and types of food; when medications are taken; as well as components of physical activity.  While proper exercise and nutrition cannot guarantee a full cure against illnesses, they can help put the odds on your side of the table.  

Exercise goals for those with diabetes:

> Improve insulin sensitivity and blood glucose control and decrease insulin requirements.

> Improve cardio-respiratory fitness.

> Improve blood lipid profiles.

> Reduce blood pressure.

> Improve muscular strength and endurance through enhancing skeletal muscle mass.

> Improve flexibility and joint range of motion.

> Reduce body weight (particularly reduce intra-abdominal fat), and

> Assist with decreasing the risk of diabetic complications.

>  Source: ACSM’s Resources For The Personal Trainer. Fourth Edition. © 2014

Exercise management for diabetes:

Many times, a client with diabetes may have other issues to address as well, such as obesity or high blood pressure.  This is why it’s so important that you understand while there is some very good general information you can find via the internet, newsletters, and other sources, there may be something applicable to  you that’s not taken into account.  Prior to starting a new exercise or nutrition program, you should always talk with your Physician and, if applicable, your  Nutritionist about any variables that are unique to you.  You’ll find that a good Certified Personal Trainer will be interested in the information resulting from these meetings, to create the best exercise plan for you.  Your health is serious, and should be taken as such. 

Prior to an exercise session, you will likely check your current blood glucose level.  I’s also a good idea to always have a snack, fruit juice, or candy on hand, in case your levels drop low during activity.  Exercising with a partner or in a group setting is also a good idea.  This way someone is around you in case something was to happen.  Knowing signs of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels) and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels) are also valuable.  Be sure to follow proper warm up and cool down phases within your workout.

A note from your writer, Tom Burns, CPT, SGX, Pn1: 

“I believe that a large part of being fit is simply focusing on your daily decisions.  Exercise, eat well, and believe in yourself.  Don't worry about the person next to you.  Worry about the person within you.  Don't focus on what you could have or should have done yesterday, focus on what you can do today and tomorrow. Everyone has the ability to make an effort today, to change something better in their life. What will you do, today?”  #DailyDecisions  #loveyourlife                                                         —