How Does Exercise Help Diabetes
You’ve heard for years that exercise is good for you. But it has specific benefits for people with diabetes —a fact that healers from ancient cultures in India and China recognized centuries ago. Since then, scientists have dis covered exactly how exercise works its magic. Here’s what exercising more can do for your diabetes.
LOWERS BLOOD SUGAR
Putting your muscles into action is like hitting your cars accelerator: It instantly boosts the demand for fuel-namely, glucose. Once your muscles exhaust their own supply of glucose, they clean out the stores in your liver, and then draw glucose straight from the bloodstream, lowering your blood sugar. When you’re done exercising, your body gives top priority to replenishing glucose stores in the liver and muscles rather than the blood, which means that your blood sugar will stay lower for hours-perhaps for as long as a couple of days, depending on how hard you worked out.
BEATS “SITTING DISEASE”
Believe it or not, sitting can kill you-especially if you’re a woman. Turns out, a recent study by researchers from the American Cancer Society’s Epidemiology Research Program —which looked at over 100,000 healthy men and women ages 50 to 74-revealed that if you’re a woman who spends more than six hours a day sitting down your risk of dying from any cause is 40 percent higher than women who sit for three hours or less. The researchers noted that it was prolonged sitting—sitting for hours at a stretch—that were lethal, so if you’ve got a desk job, take frequent walk breaks, even if it’s just to the water cooler and back.
BOOSTS INSULIN SENSITIVITY
If you exercise regularly, you can actually lower your level of insulin resistance. That’s because exercise forces muscles to use glucose more efficiently by making cells more receptive to insulin. It’s as if getting physical gives your cells a kick in the pants: If they absolutely must have more glucose, they’ll work harder to get it. Exercise also boosts the number of insulin receptors. Do it regularly and you’ll perpetuate good blood sugar control? In fact, the effect won’t entirely fade away unless you go for about 72 hours without a workout. Even if you’ve been a die-hard couch potato for years, you can ratchet up your insulin sensitivity with exercise in as little as one week.
What happens when muscles use up the glucose in the liver and blood? After about 30 minutes of continuous exercise, the body turns to fatty acids both in flabby storage sites throughout the body and in the blood. Using fat for energy helps clear the blood of harmful fats, such as LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. It also boosts “good” HDL cholesterol and helps trim abdominal fat, which is linked to a higher risk of diabetes and complications.
The more active you are, the more energy you use, and if you control your diet as well, you’ll end up with a calorie deficit that eventually tips the scales in a favorable direction. A bonus: Exercise also builds up your muscle mass and since muscle burns I energy faster than other types of tissue (especially fat), that means you’ll burn more calories all the time-even when you’re not exercising.
PROTECTS YOUR HEART
Exercise cuts your chances of having a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular problem linked with diabetes by helping to improve your risk profile. In one study type 2 patients who took part in an aerobic-exercise program lasting only three months saw their triglyceride and HDL cholesterol levels improve by about 20 per cent, along with a significant drop in blood pressure. And the benefits aren’t limited to those with type 2 diabetes. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found the risk of dying from cardiovascular illnesses to be three times higher among sedentary people with type 1 diabetes than among those who regularly burn about 2,000 calories a week through exercise.
MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD
This isn’t a minor point. Dealing with a chronic disease day after day can sometimes feel discouraging, stressful, or even depressing. Exercise helps by producing feel-good chemicals in the brain that can boost your mood, relieve stress, and alleviate the blues. It also does wonders for your sense of confidence and self-esteem. When you finish a workout, you’re justified in feeling that you’ve accomplished something important. You might feel that if you can do this, maybe you really can get your health under control. And you’d be right.
MAKES YOU LOOK BETTER
It’s not the most important health benefit, but it sure is a strong motivator. Without a doubt, if your fitness improves, your appearance does, too. You lose flab and gain muscle, strength, and energy, which make you, seem livelier, more capable, and maybe even younger. Is that sweat on your brow? Then you look fabulous!
HAS FRINGE BENEFITS
Exercise – helps control diabetes and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. As if that weren’t enough, it also:
- Helps prevent certain malignancies, such as colon cancer.
- Improves or maintains blood flow to sex organs, potentially enhancing sexual function and enjoyment.
- Preserves cognitive functions, such as memory.
- Retards bone loss that can lead to osteoporosis.
- Boosts the ability of immune-system cells to fight invaders.
- Slows physical decline that accounts for most impairments associated with aging.
- Eases arthritis pain by strengthening and stretching the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that support joints.
- Guards against back pain by strengthening muscles that support the spine.
- Aids digestion and helps prevent such ailments as irritable bowel syndrome.
- Promotes good sleep.