Diabetes and Exercise
Alternate Names : Exercise for People Who Have Diabetes
Diabetes mellitus, also called DM, is a condition that makes it hard for the body to control the level of
glucose in the blood. Glucose is the main form of sugar the body uses. Insulin
is a hormone made by the pancreas. It helps the body control the level of glucose
in the blood.
When glucose builds up in the blood, the result is a high
blood glucose level,
called hyperglycemia. There are a number of ways to lower the blood glucose
level. These include a correct diet for diabetes,
medicine, and exercise. Exercise is a natural way a person with diabetes can
help control his or her blood glucose levels. Muscles use more glucose during
What is the information for this topic?
The two most common types of diabetes mellitus are called
and type 2.
People with either of these types of diabetes benefit from regular
exercise. Almost all people who develop type 2 diabetes
have a condition called pre-diabetes
first. This condition used to be known as impaired glucose tolerance or impaired
fasting glucose. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) estimates that almost 16 million people over the age
of 40 have this condition. It occurs when blood glucose levels
are higher than healthy levels but too low to be called diabetes. Without
lifestyle changes, most people who have prediabetes
will progress to type 2 diabetes
within 10 years.
Benefits of exercise
There is no way to prevent type 1 diabetes.
But it may be possible to prevent type 2 diabetes
in many cases! This is especially true once pre-diabetes
is known. Even modest lifestyle changes can help prevent the onset of diabetes.
The key is to:
eat a healthy diet
maintain a healthy body weight
Exercise is a vital part of diabetes treatment. It can lower the level of
glucose in the blood and may also:
help the body make better use of its food supply
allow the body cells to better use insulin and glucose
aid a person in losing excess weight
improve blood circulation throughout the body
increase the heart's ability to pump blood
lower high blood pressure
help a person feel better physically and mentally
A recent study showed that walking briskly for only 30 minutes a day
at least 5 days a week greatly reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Evaluation before starting an exercise program
It is important for a person who has diabetes to visit the doctor
before starting an exercise program. The doctor can help design an
exercise program that is right for the person. He or she will take many factors
into account, including the person's:
need for activity
physical abilities and limits
blood glucose control
coronary risk factors,
and high blood pressure
The ADA states that a graded exercise
test may help if a person is at high risk for heart disease. He or she can
build up to a moderate- to high-intensity exercise program. Those at high risk
include people who:
are 35 years of age or older
have had type 2 diabetes
more than 10 years
have had type 1 diabetes
more than 15 years
have other coronary risk factors,
including high blood pressure
have significant diabetic nephropathy,
or kidney damage from diabetes
have significant retinopathy, or retinal damage in the eye
have peripheral vascular disease, or impaired circulation in the legs and arms
have autonomic neuropathy, or damage to the part of the nervous system that
controls blood pressure
Guidelines for exercise
The ADA stresses the importance of
regulating the body's glucose levels in response to exercise. It has issued
these exercise guidelines for people who have diabetes:
Monitor blood glucose levels before and after exercise. Each person
should talk with the doctor about what his or her healthy range is. Find
out if there is ever any time that exercise should be avoided because of
the blood glucose level.
Include warm-up and cooldown periods in the exercise program. The
warm-up should include 5 to 10 minutes of aerobic activity such as
low-intensity walking. Follow this with 5 to 10 minutes of gentle muscle
stretching. The cooldown after exercise should last about 5 to 10 minutes.
It should slowly bring the pulse down to the level it was before exercise.
Because people who have diabetes often also have poor circulation in
their feet, good shoes are important. The ADA recommends the use
of silica gel or air midsoles in athletic shoes. Polyester or polyester and cotton
socks help prevent blisters and keep the feet dry.
People who have diabetes should tell those exercising with them
that they have diabetes. They should also tell them what to do if they become
weak. A bracelet or shoe tag showing the person's diabetes should be clearly
visible. People who exercise alone should tell others where they are
going and when they will be back.