Diabetes Mellitus is a chronic lifelong condition that affects the bodies ability to use and produce insulin, thus affecting its ability to use and process the sugars we eat. There are 3 types of diabetes, Type 1, Type 2, and Gestational Diabetes. Even though there are these different types all of them have one major thing in common.
In people without diabetes the body breaks down the sugars and carbohydrates that we eat into a substance called glucose. All the cells of the body then are able to use this glucose as their fuel. However, in order for the glucose to enter the cells and be used as fuel a hormone called insulin is required.
This is where diabetes comes in. In a diabetic, the body either does not produce insulin, it can’t use the insulin it does produce or combination of both. Since the body’s cells are unable to take up the glucose, it starts to build up in the blood stream. This can be dangerous as high blood glucose levels can damage the small blood vessels of the kidneys, the eyes, heart and nervous system.
Here is a short overview of each type of diabetes:
Type 1 Diabetes:
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease caused by the body attacking its own pancreas with antibodies. Due to this the insulin producing cells of the pancreas are unable to produce insulin at all. Individuals with type 1 diabetes have to take insulin in the form of an injection, a pen or an insulin pump.
Type 2 Diabetes:
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and can sometimes be considered a milder form of diabetes. Even with that being said it can still have major health implications and can be life threatening if not treated properly. In type 2 diabetics the body still produces insulin. However, it either produces too little or the body’s cells have become resistant to it and they no longer respond to it and so they no longer are able to absorb or take up the insulin that is available. Type 2 obesity predominantly affects obese individuals and is usually due to insulin resistance. There is no cure for type 2 diabetes but it can be managed with nutrition, exercise and weight management interventions. In some severe cases diabetes medication is also necessary to manage the condition.
Gestational diabetes is triggered during pregnancy and often leads to the mother becoming insulin resistance. It is often diagnosed during the second and third trimester and can be dangerous as the high blood sugar levels of the mother travel through the placenta to the baby and can affect the baby’s growth and development.
So how does exercise come into play?
Exercise is an essential component of treating and caring for diabetes. When exercise is included in the treatment of diabetes numerous benefits will occur:
- Improvement in blood glucose control, predominantly in individuals with type 2 diabetes.
- Improved insulin sensitivity and lower medication requirements.
- Reduction in body fat and weight loss, which helps increase insulin sensitivity.
- Cardiovascular benefits and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
Recommendations for exercise programming
All exercise programs for individuals with diabetes should be individualized based on the individual’s medication schedule, presence of any diabetes complications, their own goals and their personal preferences. Both cardio and strength exercises should be included in the program to develop and maintain the individual’s cardio respiratory fitness, body composition and muscular strength and endurance.
Individuals with diabetes should follow the following precautions when exercising:
- During their exercise sessions, a carbohydrate food source should be readily available.
- They should consume adequate fluids before, during and after exercise.
- They should practice good foot care by wearing proper shoes, cotton socks and inspecting their feet on a regular basis especially after exercise.
- They should always carry medical identification.