With approximately 30 million people diagnosed with diabetes and 84 million diagnosed with pre-diabetes in the United States (CDC.ORG 2017) we have to consider that even though this is an alarming number the good news is that Type 2 diabetes can be prevented and treated in most cases.
What is diabetes? “Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas is no longer able to make insulin, or when the body cannot make good use of the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas, that acts like a key to let glucose from the food we eat pass from the blood stream into the cells in the body to produce energy. All carbohydrate foods are broken down into glucose in the blood. Insulin helps glucose get into the cells. Not being able to produce insulin or use it effectively leads to raised glucose levels in the blood (known as hyperglycemia). Over the long-term high glucose levels are associated with damage to the body and failure of various organs and tissues” (International Diabetes Federation).
So, let’s go back to the good news. “Physical activity has a significant positive effect on insulin sensitivity. Indeed, it may have the biggest effect of any measure you could take to improve your insulin sensitivity. Any type of physical activity has the potential to make your insulin work better, and combining aerobic activities…….with resistance training, or weight training, appears to have the greatest effect” (Diabetesselfmanagment.com). It was also proven during the research studies that when the workouts were longer and more intense, the results were better and lasted into the next day.
Since exercise can lower the risk of developing diabetes by 30 to 50%, which brings so much hope into the horizon, we should really explore what is the best type of exercise to prevent, treat and hopefully cure type 2 diabetes. It is important to do both aerobic and resistance training. While cardiovascular exercise will improve cardiac health and lower weight and abdominal fat, strength or resistance training brings more lasting benefits. Having a good amount of muscle mass has benefits when it come to diabetes and also to our overall health. Always follow this prescription at your own fitness level and discuss it with your physician.
Diet is also paramount when it comes to diabetes; a diet that has a low carbohydrate content and a low glycemic index will improve the insulin sensitivity controlling diabetes and lower HbA1c. Healthy eating and a fitness routine that includes aerobic and strength training are the best way to treat the diabetes epidemic in this country. Education and prevention are the key to lower the alarming numbers of this illness. A good exercise routine and diet not only will improve your overall health, it will also help you save money in medications and doctor’s co-payments.
By Lisy Espindola, LCSW, Health & Wellness Director