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Exercise and Type 2 Diabetes

Johan Viljoen Biokineticist


For decades, exercise has been considered a cornerstone of diabetes management, along with diet and medication. More recently, high-quality evidence has shown that exercise is very important for people with diabetes. But let us take a step back. What is diabetes?. In fact there are two types, Type 1 diabetes is caused by the autoimmune destruction of the insulin producing β cells of the pancreas. Type 2 diabetes is caused by insulin resistance with an insulin secretory defect. Type 2 diabetes is the most common of the two.

Signs and symptoms of diabetes

Frequent urination
Unquenchable thirst
Unexplained weight loss
Fatigue
Extreme hunger
Blurred vision
Sores that heal slowly

Exercise can help a person with diabetes in the following ways: Improved glucose tolerance, increased insulin sensitivity, decreased glycosylated hemoglobin, and decreased insulin requirements. Additional benefits of exercise for the diabetic person include improved lipid profiles, blood pressure reduction, weight management, increase physical work capacity and improved well-being.

Before beginning a program of physical activity more vigorous than brisk walking, go and see your doctor to rule out any complications like cardiovascular, nervous, renal or visual problems.

The basic exercise recommendation for people with diabetes without any complications can be split up into two mainstreams of exercises namely, aerobic exercise and resistance training.

Lets start with aerobic exercise:

Frequency: 3 – 4 days per week
Duration: 30 – 60 minutes
Intensity: 50 -70% of maximum heart rate
The duration of increased insulin sensitivity is generally not more than >72 hours, therefore one should not go for more than 2 consecutive days without aerobic exercise.

Resistance training:

Frequency: 3 days per week
All major muscle groups, progressing to three sets of 8 – 10 repetitions
48 hours between sessions
Proper technique, including minimizing sustained gripping, static work and Valsava ( release of pressure in body) are essential to prevent a hypertensive response

All diabetic people must be aware of hypoglycemia (<80 mg/dL) rapid drop in glucose levels or hyperglycemia (>300mg/ dL). Because of the increase in glucose uptake during exercise, the risk of hypoglycemia exists during and after exercise.
(Source: American College of Sports Medicine 2000 and Diabetes Care, Volume 27, Number 10, 2004.)

For any questions about the topic feel free to contact
Johan Viljoen,
Biokineticist
Franschhoek Health club. (021 876 3310)

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