Many factors contribute to the onset of diabetes, including genetic predisposition and diet. But exercise can help reduce the odds of getting and the severity of this disease.
Diabetes comes in two types, Type I and Type II. In either case, the body has difficulty regulating the level of blood glucose. Glucose is the primary source of energy for the body’s activities.
One basic reason is the inability to produce the proper amount of insulin, a hormone that helps transport glucose to the cells. In Type I diabetes the body can’t produce adequate insulin, so the loss has to be made up from the outside, usually via injection. This is the more serious type and control of the condition requires obtaining medical advice.
In Type II diabetes, individuals produce insulin, but it’s less effective in performing its role as a transport aid. This is the type that is more likely to occur as we age. The kidneys become less efficient and we tend to adopt a more sedentary lifestyle. We sometimes worsen our odds by being more indulgent about food. The long term effects add up.
Type II can be controlled with diet and exercise and with careful self-monitoring under the care of a physician, the effects can be minimal.
Exercise helps increase insulin sensitivity. It also reduces body fat, which helps regulate the amount of glucose needed and used. Weight training helps by increasing the metabolic rate, reducing body fat. At the same time, it increases the use of glucose used by muscles and improves the ability of muscle tissue to store it. All those help achieve the preferred glucose level.
Get professional advice and start any new program slowly, particularly if you have not been active habitually. Pain from doing too much too soon is one of the leading factors that discourages people from continuing a program. Also, the body needs time to adjust to changes in hormone level, metabolic level and thus glucose and insulin levels.
Be sure to warm up for five to ten minutes at minimum. Easy stretches and low-impact, low heart rate exercise help get the muscles infused with blood and joints limber. Take care not to exercise when it is too hot. Heat stroke (from too high an internal temperature and lack of fluid) is a risk, and more so for those who are older.
Humidity levels are a factor to consider, as well. The body’s ability to regulate internal temperature is made less efficient when the moisture content of the air is high. The heat doesn’t travel out of the sweat and off the skin so readily. On hot and/or humid days, wear loose fitting clothing and reduce the time and vigor of your routine.
Walking is a great way to get started. Try to walk on grass rather than concrete or asphalt, but with good shoes you do either. An hour per day every day is best, but even 20 minutes three or four days per week will help.
Persistence is key. Reducing the odds of getting diabetes, or controlling it once you have it, require permanent lifestyle changes. But the benefits are not only the absence of a debilitating disease, but a healthy body and improved mood.