A Healthy Bear’s Guide To Exercise & Diabetes

Hey there Guys,

As mentioned in my post yesterday about diabetes and the bear community I briefly mentioned the benefits of exercise in preventing diabetes. Today I want to elaborate on this a little more and to also discuss the benefits of exercise if you are already living with diabetes.

What are the benefits of exercise?

It is well documented that exercise is beneficial to health. In our modern world the amount of exercise we all take has become less and less. Cars are used more frequently and busy life styles have made incorporating exercise into life more difficult.  Doctors as a whole frequently tell patients that they should “get some exercise”, but very few explain why. Today I want to share some of the benefits exercise can add to your life.

  • Exercise can help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by reducing bad fats in the blood, reducing blood pressure and increasing the resilience of the heart to deal with stress.
  • Exercise can help reduce weight, in particular belly fat which is associated with heart disease and diabetes.
  • Exercise can be a useful additive treatment for depression and anxiety.
  • Weight bearing exercise helps increase bone strength and reduce the chance of osteoporosis in men and women.
  • Exercise increases balance and can help reduce injuries from falls, particular in the elderly.
  • Most important to today’s discussion, if you are at risk of diabetes or are pre-diabetic, exercise can help stop the progression to diabetes.

How does exercise help if you are diabetic or pre-diabetic?

When people are suffering with diabetes or pre-diabetes they are not able to pull glucose from the blood efficiently. This is due to their not being enough insulin, the insulin present not working properly or a combination of both.

While exercise is not able to increase the amount of insulin in the body, it does make the body more sensitive to insulin which helps bring blood glucose levels down.

The other benefit of exercise is that by using up the glucose stored in the muscles and liver, sugar is pulled from the blood to help replenish these stores.

Exercise also burns fat as a fuel source which helps reduce body fat, in particular abdominal fat which is known to make diabetes worse.

Research has shown that over the long term exercise in people who are living with diabetes has many benefits:

  • Exercise can help increase blood sugar stability. This is due to decreasing insulin resistance that is associated with type 2 diabetes.
  • Exercise helps reduce blood pressure and the fats in the blood associated with heart disease
  • Research has shown that even just walking 2 hours per week decreased the chance of a fatal cardiovascular event (heart attack or stroke)
  • Exercise can help prevent diabetes in people who are at risk of developing it.

What is the best sort of exercise?

When it comes to exercise the most important thing is to find something you actually enjoy. To gain the full benefits of exercise it needs to be something you are happy to do most days of the week.

For me, I love cycling. You can check out my bears guide to choosing a bike here.

Other people enjoy swimming, walking, cardio classes or even lifting weights.

When it comes to the “best bang for your buck” the studies show that lifting weights has the biggest effect on blood sugar levels, insulin sensitivity, weight loss and feelings of well being.

Of course lifting weights is not for everyone, however if you enjoy variety and don’t want to spend hours at the gym it may be a good choice for you.

The main point is that it’s about getting out there and doing something. If you hate doing it there is little chance you are going to be able to stick with it so don’t be afraid to try a few different things until you find something you like.

Important things to remember if you are diabetic and exercising.

If you are currently being treated with insulin or medicines other than metformin there is a chance of a drop in sugar that can lead to a hypo attack. If you are being treated with insulin it is best to start your exercise habits slowly and be sure to carry some sweets as a “just in case” if your sugar drops quickly.

Having food 30 minutes before exercise and 30 minutes after you finish can help reduce the chance of hypos.

If you are unsure of the symptoms of a hypo here is a great page that explains what to look out for.

Measuring your blood sugar levels before, during and after exercise can be a useful tool when you start to predict how your body responds to exercise.

Given the importance of foot care all diabetics should wear well fitted shoes to reduce the risk of problems.

If you suffer with decreased sensation in the feet, sometimes called peripheral neuropathy, you way want to avoid running as this can lead to injuries that may be missed due to decreased pain sensations. Be sure to look after your feet and have a good inspection each day after you have showered.

If you are showering at your local gym it may be worth considering using thongs to reduce the chance of fungal infections of the feet.

If you are diabetic I always recommend seeing your doctor before you start an exercise regime.

Should I see a doctor before exercise?

I always recommend seeing your family doctor before starting exercise, especially if you are in any of  the following groups:

  • Over 40 years old
  • Diabetic
  • Asthmatic
  • If you have high blood pressure or heart disease
  • If someone in your family has heart disease  or has suddenly died unexpectedly
  • if your waist measurement is more than 100cm (40?)
  • If you are taking any medicines prescribed by a doctor or naturopath, or taking any medicines sold over the counter
  • And finally, if it’s been a long time since you have exercised you should see a doctor before starting.
To make life a little easier I have created a simple form you can fill out and give to your doctor before your review. It’s based on the latest research and will make life a little easier for your doctor if he or she may not be up to date with the latest exercise research.

Simple Click To Download Your Copy Of
The Pre Exercise Medical Review Guide


So to summarize…

There are many benefits to exercise:

Whether you are diabetic, pre diabetic or your sugar and insulin levels are normal there are many benefits to exercise. These include increased heart health, weight reduction, reduced chance of osteoporosis and increase feelings of well-being.

If you are diabetic or at risk of diabetes:

Exercise is a key treatment for diabetes and pre-diabetes. Exercise helps improve the body’s response to insulin which helps decrease blood sugar levels.

Exercise also helps reduce blood pressure, fats in the blood, weight  and other risk factors for cardiac disease.

When diabetic and exercising:

Be sure to keep an eye on your sugars. Exercise can make your sugar levels drop putting you at risk of a hypo. Be sure to carry sweets, and eating both before and after exercise can reduce this risk. Keeping a record of your sugars can help you understand how your body responds to exercise.

Look after your feet with well fitting shoes and if you have reduced sensation avoid exercise that could lead to damage. Be sure to maintain good foot health.

Finally you should see a doctor before starting exercise if:

  • you are over 35
  • you have any medical conditions
  • your waist measurement is more then 100cm
  • or you have not exercised in a long period of time

Guys, there are a lot of benefits to getting a bit of exercise. You can benefit if you are simply taking an evening stroll, using the occasional stair or  even something as simple as getting off the bus one stop early.

The trick is to do something often, every little bit counts!

Yours in great health!

Dr George

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