If you’ve been living with either type I or type II diabetes, by now you probably know the general gist of what it is. For those of you who don’t or those of you who have never lived with diabetes, we’ll start with a brief overview.
According to Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, diabetes mellitus (DM) is “a disorder of carbohydrate metabolism, characterized by hyperglycemia [excess glucose in the blood] and glycosuria [excretion of glucose in urine] and resulting from inadequate production or utilization of insulin.” The important thing to note here is that insulin maintains the balance of your blood sugar levels; so when it’s affected, blood sugar is no longer controlled naturally by the body. In type I DM, insulin is not produced by the body and typically occurs prior to the age of 25. This form of DM is difficult to regulate. Type II DM is the result of cellular resistance to insulin and the inability of the body to regulate compensatory secretions of insulin.
The key with these forms of diabetes is that they are PERMANENT. This does NOT mean you are doomed to fall into a diabetic coma nor have your legs amputated simply because you have diabetes. However, these are very REAL risks if you do not MANAGE your condition.
So, what is this “secret weapon” for fighting diabetes (description coined by The Hormone Foundation)? If you haven’t guessed it yet, it’s EXERCISE! According to several sources, exercise does all of the following in relation to diabetes:
- Lowers blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol
- Improves circulation
- Reduces the need for insulin and oral medications
- Prevents weight gain and promotes weight loss (excess body fat can worsen diabetes)
- Strengthens the heart, muscles, and bones
- Improves strength, flexibility, and endurance
- Improves brain function and mood
- Lowers stress
Prior to starting an exercise program, speak to your doctor so that he/she can do any testing that may be necessary to rule out medical complications.
When you begin an exercise program, checking your blood sugar level is VERY important. Certain general guidelines exist to help steer your level of exercise and amount of food intake prior to exercise depending on what your blood glucose level reads. A good basic guideline is to make sure your glucose level is at least 100 mg/dL but less than 300 mg/dL before beginning exercise. If it’s higher than 300 mg/dL, get your blood glucose under control before exercise. Those with diabetes should exercise 30 minutes on most days of the week adding up to 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise and 90 minutes of vigorous activity at least.
Diabetics should take special precautions when exercising. Wear shoes and socks and check your feet daily for sores or blisters. Don’t exercise alone, especially if you use insulin. Know the signs of hypoglycemia and keep hard candies with you when exercising (take food with you for prolonged activities like hiking). Check your sugar level before and after exercise and every half hour if exercise exceeds 1 hour. Also, make sure to stay hydrated because dehydration can mimic low sugar levels.
I hope this information helps clear up some questions or misconceptions about diabetes. Feel free to leave any comments or suggestions. Our next blog will be related to the benefits of laser treatment. Find out if this treatment may help you. Thank you for reading and stay active.