DIABOLICAL DIABETES : the ins and outs of this disease

Written by Kerryn Ivers:  Exercise Physiologist


Did you know that 1 in 10 adults in Australia have Type 2 Diabetes and that 280 people are diagnosed everyday? That is such a staggering number for a disease that has such nasty side effects like macular degeneration, leg ulcers that can result in amputation, and well, death.  

Type 2 Diabetes is where the insulin that is released from the pancreas is not doing its job of removing sugar (stored as glucose) from the blood, resulting in a higher than normal level of glucose in the blood. This can occur for a number of reasons, 

but essentially for the majority of the time, the risk of the disease can be minimised by making healthy lifestyle choices through a healthy diet and hitting a few guidelines for exercise. This will reduce the risk factors of high blood pressure and obesity. There are other contributing factors like genetics, ethnicity and gender that also affect the risk of obtaining the disease. 

The great news is….

The right dose of exercise can make a big impact on the disease process and can even reduce the need for medication. 

Yes, you heard right.  Exercising for diabetes can help your body to control and maintain a normal level of blood sugar. While it can’t reverse any damage caused to the pancreas leading to the reduction of insulin being produced, it does help with how the muscle cells respond to insulin, in turn reducing the amount of glucose in your blood for a few hours after exercise. 

Exercise also helps the uptake of glucose in ways where insulin is not required and can reduce the amount of insulin required to facilitate the ‘transaction’ of glucose into the cells. The best place for glucose is in your muscles being used for energy to make us move. 

There is more good news because exercise can help to prevent this nasty disease as well AND  it also reduces other chronic conditions that seem to go hand in hand with diabetes like, heart disease and fatty liver disease. And more than that it also improves mood, sleep quality and reduces stress levels!!! 

There is no one right answer for everybody in terms of exercise as each person has different conditions and barriers. However, we know that for the best effect on reducing the progression and risk of this disease, a mixture of cardiovascular (exercising continuously to improve heart and lung function, like walking, swimming or dancing) and resistance training (building strength through engaging muscle groups) is most 

effective. It is best to make sure you get the right support when starting off on an exercise program as there are particular precautions for diabetes. So be sure to ask your Exercise Physiologist about what exercise is right for you.