Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that is characterized by the body’s failure to effectively utilize glucose for a variety of physiologic processes. For some individuals, they may have an inherently defective insulin mechanism where the body is simply not producing enough insulin to move glucose molecules from the blood and into the cells. In many other individuals, especially those towards their middle ages, diabetes is more a condition whereby the body’s insulin may be affected by other factors that severely undermines its ability to move glucose. For example, if the body produces sufficient amounts of insulin but has lost its ability to use insulin effectively, then the body is said to be in a state of insulin resistance. And this is what causes glucose to build up in the blood leading to a pre-diabetic state.
The relationship between diabetes and exercise is based on the physiology of glucose utilization. Cells need glucose primarily for energy. Studies show that sedentary lifestyle and faulty eating habits lead to obesity which is a major determinant in the development of insulin resistance. It is for this reason that, while hypoglycaemic medications can help reduce blood glucose, getting regular exercise and eating sensibly remain the cornerstone of diabetic management.
Physical exercise help burn fat to reduce the impact of insulin resistance. The more body fat that is lost, the better it is for insulin to perform its function. Furthermore, exercise can help reduce the stress which many diabetics have because of their condition. Cortisol, a major stress hormone, effectively blocks the production of insulin in an attempt to force the body to use glucose as fuel necessary for the fight or flight response during stress. Cortisol also has a constricting effect on blood vessels restricting the more efficient flow of blood. Diabetics who are in extreme stress are therefore, more vulnerable to the damaging effects of chronic hyperglycaemia. It is for this reason that exercise is needed to help bring about a more balanced sense of wellbeing and to mitigate the effects of stress.
One does not need to hit the gym in order to perform exercises. Any activity that can make you feel good about yourself and help you burn calories and lose weight are considered good for a diabetic. This means that you don’t have to really restrict your physical activity to those exercises in the gym. Here are some physical activities and exercises that are considered safe and effective even for diabetics who are already in their 40s and beyond.
- Walking or jogging – Definitely one of the most practical ways to stay fit, keep your heart rate slightly elevated, and burn calories. Just make sure that you wear the correct shoes to mitigate the impact to your feet. One of the major issues of diabetics is the occurrence of problems in the feet. You need to make sure that you are not putting too much pressure on your feet.
- Swimming – For diabetic individuals who may have serious weight issues, swimming is an excellent choice. The buoyant force of the water effectively minimizes the effect of gravity on body weight. Since the body is suspended in water, moving the different limbs can eliminate the impact on joints as well as the feet.
- Water aerobics – For a more vigorous swimming activity, water aerobics will be a great way to stay really focused in burning those calories in a very efficient way. Aerobics in the water provides additional resistance training as the body attempts to move against the volume of water. This is something that is missing in an aerobic exercise in the gym.
- Cycling – Whether it is a bicycle or a stationary or exercise bike, cycling is a fun way to help manage your diabetes. While the focus is on the leg muscles, it nevertheless helps in speeding the heart rate to develop cardiovascular endurance as well as improved muscle tone. Improving muscle tone can help in the more efficient burning of calories to help you regain control of your insulin functioning.
- Tai Chi – While this may not really be considered a physical exercise in the strictest form, it does provide you an opportunity to be mindful of body movements. The goal is for you to manage your stresses, feel more relaxed and calm, and be able to mitigate the negative effects of cortisol on insulin functioning.
- Dancing – You don’t have to dance the Zumba to gain control over your diabetes. Any moderate to high intensity dance can help you burn those calories while at the same time having fun. You are addressing both the stress component of your diabetes and the insulin resistance of your body.
There are other exercises that you can do if you are diabetic. The important thing to remember is to combine physical activity and good diet and you should do well in your diabetes management.