Diabetes and Metabolic Health

If you aren’t active you put yourself at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Exercise is also key to treating the disease. It’s not the same for type 1 diabetes, although there is evidence to show that regular exercise improves the way your body responds to insulin which is helpful in managing the disease.

There is lots of advice about diabetes on the Diabetes UK website, including a section on how being active and staying active can help.

Pre-diabetes

Pre-diabetes used to be called metabolic syndrome. It is the medical term for a combination high cholesterol, insulin resistance (a pre-diabetic warning sign), high blood pressure and abdominal obesity. It puts you at greater risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, cardio vascular disease, dementia and some cancers.

On their own, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity can potentially damage your heart and cardio vascular system but having all three together is particularly dangerous.

They are very common conditions that are all linked, which explains why pre-diabetic metabolic syndrome affects an estimated one in four adults in the UK.

A study of obese patients at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes showed that lifestyle changes including 150 minutes of exercise per week and a change in diet was twice as effective in preventing diabetes than drug therapy.

If you are at risk of diabetes you really should exercise! You don’t have to lose a lot of weight to get the benefits.

What type of exercise is right

You should aim to do some aerobic activity (ie something that raises your heart rate and gets you warmer), some resistance training (ie something that builds up your strength) and something that helps with flexibility. Start small, if you haven’t done much exercise in the past start with a gentle walk each day, and over time increase how far you walk and how fast you walk. As your fitness improves you can try other activities.

It is best to talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise plan, you may be offered help with a specific program.

Aerobic exercise includes walking, Nordic walking, cycling, rowing, swimming and circuit classes. You could also try something like walking football.

Resistance exercise includes any activity that works your muscles – this includes carrying shopping bags and simple sitting to standing exercises. As you feel more confident you can try using weights, resistance machines, squats, wall presses or press ups. Yoga also helps build up your muscles, it helps with flexibility too.

Flexibility and balance are also important. Any exercise that improves mobility or involves stretching or balancing is good, especially if you have limited movement in a specific area of your body. Tai Chi, yoga, dance and even playing bowls are good examples.

There are lots of different types of exercise to try, the best advice is to find something that you enjoy, and try something different if you start to get bored. You could try a specialised program from a qualified Exercise on Referral professional.

Type 1 Diabetes

Unlike type 2 diabetes exercise can’t prevent type 1 diabetes, however it’s still good to be active to help reduce your risk of developing complications. There is evidence to show that regular physical activity increases your sensitivity to insulin. This means that regular exercise can result in you needing to take less insulin.

Before you start to exercise it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or diabetes nurse. They will be able to help you plan your exercise regime.  You need to be aware of the risks of hypoglycaemia when you exercise, this can happen up to 24 hours after exercise, so plan your diet and insulin carefully, and follow advice from your health professionals.

What type of exercise is right

You should aim to meet the recommended levels of activity, and do some aerobic activity and some resistance training (ie something that raises your heart rate and gets you warmer, and something that helps build up strength). It is wise to talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise plan.

You should start slowly, start at low intensity and gradually build up the intensity and length of time you exercise for.

Aerobic exercise could include walking, Nordic walking, cycling, rowing, swimming and circuit classes. You could also try something like walking football.

Resistance exercise includes weights, resistance machines, or weight-bearing activity for example standing to sitting and repeating, squats, wall presses or press ups.

Flexibility exercise is also important. Any exercise that improves mobility or involves stretching is good.

There are lots of different types of exercise to try, the best advice is to find something that you enjoy, and try something different if you start to get bored.

Type 2 Diabetes

Being physically inactive greatly increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

A study of obese patients at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes showed that lifestyle changes including 150 minutes of exercise per week and a change in diet was twice as effective in preventing diabetes than drug therapy.

If you are at risk of diabetes you really should exercise !

Regular physical activity is a major part of the treatment for type 2 diabetes. Aerobic exercise is best (where you get out of breath) but strength training is also helpful. For best results do both ! It is likely that your doctor will advise you to take more exercise, and they may offer supervised sessions.

Regular physical activity improves your body’s sensitivity to insulin, this means you will have better control over the sugar in your blood. You may find that you an stay off medication for longer, or use less medication if you exercise. However there are other benefits of exercise that help people with type 2 diabetes, you’ll be healthier and your blood pressure lower, all of which will benefit your overall health.

Foot care and exercise

Many people with diabetes suffer from damage to the nerves in their feet (peripheral neuropathy). If you suffer from this it may be harder to exercise but don’t let it stop you. Ask for advice on the types of exercise you can do, and check your feet before and after any activity.

There is some information on how being active helps with this condition on the Diabetes UK website.

What type of exercise is right

You should aim to meet the recommended levels of activity, and do some aerobic activity and some resistance training (ie something that raises your heart rate and gets you warmer, and something that helps build up strength). It is best to talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise plan, you may be offered help with a specific program.

You should start slowly, start at low intensity and gradually build up the intensity and length of time you exercise for.

Aerobic exercise could include any prolonged, rhythmic activities e.g. walking, nordic walking, cycling, rowing, swimming and circuit classes. You could also try something like walking football.

Resistance exercise includes weights, resistance machines, or weight-bearing activity for example standing to sitting and repeating, squats, wall presses or press ups.

Flexibility exercise is also important. Any exercise that improves mobility or involves stretching is good, especially if you have limited movement in a specific area of your body.

There are lots of different types of exercise to try, the best advice is to find something that you enjoy, and try something different if you start to get bored. You could try a specialised program from a qualified Exercise on Referral professional