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Exercise and Diabetes

Exercise has the potential to control the diabetes by nonmedical means, reduce the severity of the disease, and significantly reduce the risk of long-term complications. This this article will discuss: what is diabetes, how exercise can help, who can exercise, footcare, hypoglycemia, precautions, and recommendations on aerobic and strength training exercise.

What is diabetes

Diabetes mellitus is a condition where the body has trouble taking glucose from the blood and delivering it to the rest of the body so that it can be used as energy. This is because of a lack of, or an inability to use insulin, the hormone required to “escort” glucose from the blood to cells of the body. There are two common types of diabetes:

Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, also known as Type 1. People who have this cannot produce insulin and must take insulin by injection. Because the medical concerns and complications, exercise for the Type 1 diabetic should be medically supervised.

Noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, or Type 2. These people are “insulin resistant”, meaning that they produce insulin, but it is not effective in escorting the glucose into the cells. Eighty to ninety percent of the diabetic opulation is Type 2. A physician will prescribe oral hypoglycemic agents if blood glucose levels cannot be controlled. As a last resort, a Type 2 diabetic will be put on insulin, which is likely if they continue with poor lifestyle choices such as sedentary living, poor eating habits and weight gain. 

How exercise can help
Aerobic exercise increases insulin sensitivity and, along with proper nutrition, helps restore normal glucose metabolism by decreasing body fat. Strength training (a.k.a. resistance or weight training) also decreases body fat by raising the metabolism. It’s main benefit, however, is increasing glucose uptake by the muscles and enhancing the ability to store glucose. Exercise can mean the difference between “medical management” and “lifestyle management” of Type 2 diabetes.

Who can exercise
The American Diabetes Association recommends that anyone with diabetes have a thorough medical exam to see if there are risks for coronary artery disease and that blood glucose control is adequate before starting an exercise program. The doctor will usually advise exercise if the patient has:

sm_blue_oval.gif (76 bytes) blood glucose less than 250 mg/dl.
sm_blue_oval.gif (76 bytes) no symptoms of retinopathy, (damage to the blood vessels of the eye), neuropathy (damage to the nerves and circulation to extremities), or nephropathy (kidney damage)
sm_blue_oval.gif (76 bytes) no cardiovascular problems such as angina, embolism, or aneurysm
sm_blue_oval.gif (76 bytes) no other condition that makes exercise inadvisable.

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