Dr Aidin Rawshani

Exercise and diabetes: how physical activity improves your health


Training and exercise for you with diabetes

Exercise is very important for those who have diabetes

Many cardiologists believe that human physical performance is the best measure of health. Research shows that physical performance is very closely related to the risk of disease and premature death. Physical activity (exercise, exercise) is health promotion and can be recommended to virtually anyone with diabetes, regardless of their type. If you have diabetes, do your utmost to be as physically active as possible. Both your physical and mental health are enhanced by physical activity.

Sedentary is a public health problem

Unfortunately, we humans have become sedentary creatures. Developments in our environment make us physically inactive and this is the result of modernization and automation in society. Most of us should exercise more and avoid roads that steal physical activity. Biking instead of taking the car, taking the stairs instead of the escalators and actually going to the grocery store instead of clicking home the food via modern e-services, are three examples that many of us recognize.

The sedentary and physical inactivity of man is one of the main causes of the global epidemic of type 2 diabetes. Physical inactivity does not cause type 1 diabetes, but physical activity is health-promoting if you have type 1 diabetes.

How much exercise do I need?

Not being physically active is directly harmful. Fortunately, quite a bit of physical activity is required to have obvious health effects. A brisk walk daily is perfect for most people. The more you exercise, and the more intense the exercise, the more pronounced the positive effects will be. Try to find a training form that is right for you. It should be fun and useful to train. It does not matter much what kind of training you choose. Remember to start gently if you are untrained. You can escalate the intensity gradually. Also keep in mind that the more you train the motivation gets better.

  • Try to be physically active at least 150 minutes per week (preferably more).
  • Exercise so that the effort becomes at least moderate, which means that your heart rate and your breathing need to increase.
  • Try to vary cardio training with strength training.
  • Choose the activity that suits you.

Effects of training

For those who have diabetes, exercise is especially important, regardless of the type of diabetes you have. With regular physical activity, you can achieve the following effects:

  • Your insulin sensitivity gets better (ie your body reacts better to insulin).
  • Your body gets better at taking up glucose from the blood.
  • You get lower and more stable blood sugar, which reduces the risk of diabetic complications.
  • Lower blood pressure, which reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and kidney disease.
  • Better blood lipids, which reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Your mental well-being increases. You simply feel better if you exercise, which is due to the fact that exercise leads to the release of certain substances (endorphin) into the brain.
  • The concentration gets better.
  • Memory gets better.
  • Your blood vessels work better (this is important for regulating the functioning of blood vessels).
  • You lose weight, get more muscles and become stronger. Losing weight is usually good in type 2 diabetes, but does not have to be good if you have type 1 diabetes.
  • If you have type 2 diabetes and try to lose weight, it is facilitated by being physically active, and it also makes it easier to maintain your weight loss.
  • The need for drugs (tablets, tablets, etc.). insulin) decreases when exercising (mainly applies to type 2 diabetes). Physical activity can be as effective as drug therapy in type 2 diabetes.
  • The heart’s ability to pump blood into the body is getting better.
  • The immune system becomes stronger.

Do not forget to read Physical activity: effects on blood pressure, blood sugar, blood lipids and cardiovascular disease.

To lose weight with training

It is important to understand that physical activity generally does not lead to significant weight loss. For those who intend to lose weight (type 2 diabetes), the exercise should be supplemented with a change in diet (read How to lose weight). There is strong scientific support that exercise has only a modest effect on weight loss, as illustrated by the figure below. The figure comes from a study investigating how diet, exercise and the combination of diet and exercise affected body weight. 2

Although there are no major weight changes with physical activity, there are many other positive health effects of exercise (see above). If you have type 2 diabetes, or type 1 diabetes, you will benefit greatly from these health effects.

For those who use insulin

When you are physically active, the muscles of the body work much more than at rest. Muscles consume glucose (glucose) and this means that physical activity leads to rapid consumption of glucose contained in the blood. At the same time, you get a release of other hormones (e.g. adrenaline) that causes blood sugar to rise when you exercise. This means that physical activity can lead to pronounced fluctuations in blood sugar and it is important to be prepared for this. If you do not use insulin, this is no problem. However, if you use insulin, you need to consider the dosage of insulin, as well as the planning of meals.

Most people need to reduce the dose of insulin before physical activity (otherwise there is a risk of falling blood sugar during training). For those who have recently started insulin, it is important to know how your body reacts to exercise. Be sure to measure blood sugar before, during and after the workout to understand your body. Adjust your insulin doses and meals according to blood sugar and exercise intensity.

Establishing new habits is difficult

Physical activity can mean the whole difference to your health and well-being. Physical activity is recommended to all people with diabetes, regardless of the type of diabetes. There is no doubt that everyone with diabetes should exercise and most people need to exercise more. According to the National Diabetes Register, 70% of people with type 2 diabetes are moderately physically active (they exercise 1-2 times a week). If you ignore individuals who cannot exercise for medical reasons, there is still a very large number of individuals who simply do not exercise enough.

Motivation is extremely important in this context. It is difficult to justify oneself, even knowing that physical activity is healthy. The same argument can be made for smoking: we know that smoking is harmful, but despite this, about 13% of all people with diabetes smoke. You must therefore do your utmost to find motivation. As a rule, the more you train your motivation increases. The first phase, when starting a new habit, is usually the most difficult.

Being diagnosed with diabetes can be very motivating and many patients become physically active when they are diagnosed. For these people it is important to find motivation to maintain the habit. For those who have not yet managed to justify themselves, new attempts must be made. Talk to your doctor/nurse for advice, answers to questions and guidance. Be sure to try different forms of physical activity. Find your favorite workout and enjoy it! If you have a partner or friend who can be involved, it can be very positive for both of you.

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