What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a metabolic condition which results in an elevated fasting blood glucose level due to either a defect of our body to produce the hormone insulin, or an inability of our body to use insulin.
Why is insulin important, what does it do?
Insulin is a hormone that allows our bodies to use the glucose from the food that we eat for energy, and it also acts like a key that unlocks cells and allows glucose to be stored for future use.
Without insulin working well, the glucose from food remains in our blood and our blood glucose levels rise to a high level. This is not normal for our bodies. When left untreated this can cause a number of consequences to our health including blindness, nerve damage, limb amputation, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke, and even death.
How common is diabetes?
It’s estimated that around 1.7 million Australians are living with diabetes, with one person being diagnosed every 5 minutes, and it contributes to around 11% of deaths in Australia.
What are the different types of diabetes
There are a number of different types of diabetes, with the most common being type 1 and type 2 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease and is commonly diagnosed in children and young adults.
Type 2 diabetes is the more common form of diabetes, affecting 85-90% of all people with diabetes. While it usually affects older adults, more and more young people, even children, are developing type 2 diabetes. Unlike type 1 diabetes, your risk of developing type 2 diabetes is strongly associated with lifestyle factors such as high blood pressure, overweight or obesity, insufficient physical activity and a poor diet.
How can exercise help to prevent type 2 diabetes?
No one knows exactly what causes type 2 diabetes, but lifestyle factors, such as being overweight and being inactive, strongly increase your risk. Statistics show that 53% of the diabetes burden is due to overweight and obesity alone.
Increasing your exercise and physical activity levels is an easy way to help reduce your risk!
Can exercise help people living with type 2 diabetes?
Yes it certainly can. Although there is no known cure for diabetes, exercise can be a powerful tool for managing this condition. Exercise helps to:
How much exercise is recommended?
The actual dose of exercise that is recommended to prevent and to assist in managing type 2 diabetes is to accumulate 2 and a half hours of moderate intensity exercise across the week, or half that amount of high intensity exercise, in addition to 2 strength training sessions. The strength training exercises should aim to target the major muscle groups within the body.
It’s important to monitor blood glucose levels, particularly for people on insulin, before, during and after an exercise session, and it is also important to wear good supportive footwear and to check feet for problems each exercise session.
Accredited Exercise Physiologist/Diabetes Educator
What is it?
According to the most recent figures from the National Diabetes Service Scheme, 1,302,303 Australians are living with diabetes, and 87% of those are living with type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disease characterised by having either peripheral insulin resistance, simply put means our body's cells resist insulin's help in removing and storing glucose from our bloodstream, or relative insulin deficiency which means that our body is not producing enough insulin to assist our body to store away glucose from our bloodstream. This results in elevated blood glucose levels, which if not managed, leads to a number of complications, and a decreased lifespan.
Why do I have it?
There are many factors which can lead to Type 2 diabetes or increase a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes. People are at a higher risk if they:
How can exercise help?
Exercise, along with other lifestyle interventions, plays an important role in the management of type 2 diabetes.
The reasons for the improvement in blood glucose levels from exercise are complex, but put simply exercise helps to improve insulin sensitivity (increased effectiveness/use of insulin by our body), and increases the amount of glucose taken up by the muscles (which are not dependent on insulin), both resulting in lowered blood glucose levels in the hours following exercise.
Improvements in blood glucose values towards optimum levels commonly leads to a decrease in type 2 diabetes medication use.
And of course, exercise helps to prevent and manage other chronic conditions, provides improvements in physical health and fitness, strength, and bone mass which improves our overall physical function and independence.
What type of exercise, and how do I get started?
The research shows that both aerobic exercise, and strength training alone can provide benefits, however a combination of the two has been shown to have the most benefit in reducing blood glucose levels.
The recommended amount of exercise from Exercise and Sports Science Australia is:
To gain benefits to our health we need to undertake aerobic exercise for at least 10 minutes continuously each bout, and for those who have not exercised before, this is a great place to start. Start with a duration of exercise you can handle, undertaking an activity that you enjoy (walking, bike riding, swimming, arm cycle, etc), and then build your way up to 10 minutes + from there. You could undertake multiple 10 minute bouts across the day, or undertake a larger duration/chunk of exercise (such as 30-60 minutes) all at one time.
Strength training should include multi joint exercises, utilising large muscle groups, 8-10 repetitions, 2-4 sets of exercises. Resistance bands can be a great way to start at home, however progressing to higher weight (dumbbells/resistance machines/cable pulleys) has been shown to have a greater effect for people with diabetes.
Please feel free to reach out to us with any diabetes and exercise concerns, or call or book online to have an individual assessment and program developed to meet your needs.