Diabetes, exercise and physical activity
managing diabetes with diet and exercise : In this article we will address how diet and physical exercise are two fundamental factors in the development and progression of diabetes.
Traditionally, the presence of a disease has been sufficient reason to condemn a person not to move, to rest most of his time and, if there is no other remedy, slowly and with good handwriting, it is not going to get worse.
Diabetes, like any disease, requires guidelines that must be met yes or yes, but fortunately, science advances and with this we know the benefits of physical exercise and an active life in people who have diabetes.
Table Of Contents
- Controlling diabetes through physical exercise
- Relationship between physical activity, physical exercise and diabetes
- Physical activity
- Physical exercise
- General recommendations
- Avoid long periods of inactivity
- 150 minutes of physical exercise weekly
- Constant advice
Controlling diabetes through physical exercise
Diabetes is a group of diseases that results in high levels of glucose in the blood (hyperglycemia) as a consequence of a deficiency in its regulation mediated by insulin.
It seems that these diseases are caused by both genetic factors (family history, age, race, etc.) and environmental factors (body composition, diet, physical activity, geographical location, exposure to other diseases, etc.) .
In general, when the level of glucose in the blood increases (either by food or by the action of the liver), the pancreas releases insulin to control it. In some cases (type 1 diabetes) the immune system attacks the pancreas, eliminating all or part of the insulin.
In others, the cells become resistant to the action of insulin, so glucose is unable to reach the cells that need it, resulting in its accumulation in the bloodstream .
This can also happen in pregnant women as a consequence of the hormonal alteration that occurs during pregnancy, known as gestational diabetes. Type 1 diabetes usually appears at an early age and represents between 5-10% of cases, while the rest correspond to cases of prediabetes or type 2 diabetes (Article).
These diseases cause numerous limitations, increase the risk of suffering from other pathologies and affect the functionality of the body systems, so strategies to minimize their effects and prevent diabetes are very necessary .
Adopting an active lifestyle, increasing levels of daily physical activity and / or doing physical exercise, are strategies that, due to their effectiveness, are highly recommended for this purpose. The most significant associated benefits are the control of blood glucose and the improvement of the action of insulin and the sensitivity of cells to it .
Relationship between physical activity, physical exercise and diabetes
First of all, we must know that not all physical activity is physical exercise.
It is any body activity that involves an energy expenditure carried out in daily tasks, for example, walking to work (Study). In relation to daily physical activity, numerous studies have corroborated the effectiveness of strategies to increase and maintain an active life to help control blood glucose.
The use of new technologies to control activity levels (number of steps), set daily goals (minimum daily steps) or have the support of professionals are the most effective tools to increase activity levels . At the same time, spending long periods of time inactive impairs glycemic control, so breaking these intervals would also help keep glucose levels under control.
Specifically, performing 3-5 minutes of light activity every 30 minutes inactive, or taking a short walk for 10-15 minutes after eating has been proven effective in type 2 diabetics .
It is any activity that involves an energy expenditure and that we structure and plan to improve physical condition, for example, walking 4 days a week for 1 hour and a half (Study). Similarly, not all exercise is the same.
Aerobic exercise refers to activities in which large muscle groups participate and with high cardiorespiratory demand that are maintained over time at light, moderate or intense intensities (walking, running, swimming, dancing, skating, cycling, etc.).
Aerobic exercise produces specific improvements in terms of cellular function for energy, which translates into greater sensitivity to insulin in type 1 and type 2 diabetics. It also helps reduce glucose and triglyceride levels in blood, as well as and blood pressure, especially in cases of type 2 diabetes.
HIIT (high intensity interval training) may also provide benefits for both types related to glycemic control and insulin sensitivity.
Strength exercise refers to activities whose purpose is to improve and develop the ability to generate force in our muscles. It can involve large or small muscles and works at light, moderate or intense intensities (exercise with our body weight, elastic bands, machines, bars, discs, dumbbells, suspension systems, etc.) .
Maintaining the levels of muscle strength allows to maintain the autonomy and functionality of the person over time. One of the limitations associated with diabetes is the accelerated decline in this capacity, with the consequent decrease in autonomy in people with diabetes.
Strength training is therefore essential in this group as well. In addition to maintaining or improving strength levels, it is effective in improving body composition, bone health, glycemic control, insulin resistance, blood pressure, etc. especially for type 2 diabetes. Strength training is also effective in reducing the risk of hypoglycemic events in both types of diabetes .
Finally, it has also been seen that blood circulation problems coupled with high glucose values worsen skin elasticity and joint mobility, which also affects balance. Therefore, including exercises to prevent, correct and minimize these losses can be highly recommended in this population .
Avoid long periods of inactivity
Or interrupt them every 30 minutes for 3-5 minutes of light activity, such as climbing stairs, walking, or doing a few squats .
150 minutes of physical exercise weekly
Accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate-intense physical exercise a week, including aerobic and strength exercise. The ideal is to combine both types of exercise in the same session to better control blood glucose, and perform blood sugar exercise sessions daily or, at least, leave no more than 48 hours between sessions.
Stretching and exercises to improve joint stability and balance are recommended for all age groups, but especially older adults. If there are physical limitations, the training should be adjusted to avoid overexertion .
Young people with diabetes (typically type 1) will benefit from getting at least 3 sessions a week of more than 1 hour of combined exercise duration. Young Type 2 diabetics should follow the same recommended guidelines for their age group without disease .
Gestational diabetes: if the contraindications to physical exercise in pregnant women do not prevent it, doing 20-30 ‘of physical exercise daily or most days reduces the risk of suffering from this disease .
The progression of intensity and volume of training is key to avoid unwanted events associated with diabetes, such as hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, dehydration, etc. (Study). It is also necessary to do a daily glycemic control (especially in cases of type 1 diabetes) to avoid hypoglycemic or hyperglycemic events .
managing diabetes with diet and exercise : Avoid hypoglycemia (blood glucose values below normal), more common in type 1 diabetics: When aerobic and strength training are combined in the same session, it has been proven that doing the strength part first prevents this type of events.
During a moderate intensity aerobic workout, doing 10 seconds at high intensity at the beginning or end of the session prevents these events. After the exercise session, blood glucose can change in an interval of 6-15 hours or even go up to 48 hours. This can induce nocturnal hypoglycemia.
To prevent hypoglycemic events, the insulin doses that the person uses, the food intake around the training should be adjusted and the intensity of the session should be well considered .
Avoid hyperglycemia (blood glucose values well above normal): Although they are more common in type 1 diabetics, anyone with diabetes who drastically reduces their insulin dose or abuses foods rich in glucose can be affected.
Control of blood glucose and adjustment of doses and intakes before, after and during exercise are very important. Short intervals at maximum intensity without adequate control and recovery time can lead to hyperglycemia. Aerobic exercise can help reduce risk .
Avoid dehydration (decrease in body water levels that affects the functioning of the body): The regulation of body temperature can be poor in people with diabetes.
Therefore, in hot or humid environments, the session must be suspended and adequate hydration must be monitored and maintained at all times to compensate for the loss of fluids and maintain an adequate body temperature .
Being advised by professionals is associated with better results and adherence to changing habits, physical exercise and diet. The adjustments regarding food and insulin must be controlled by specialists.
Guidelines related to physical exercise and daily physical activity should also be individually adjusted by specialists to achieve maximum benefit and minimize risk .
There is a wide range of possibilities that people with diabetes can and should follow to improve their quality of life and avoid the decline in their functionality and autonomy to which they are exposed. Thanks to all the advances, we are far from the old and very conservative recommendations.
However, it is important to have professional advice that assesses the limitations and guidelines of each person to find the best strategy to follow to adopt a lifestyle with which the person with diabetes can enjoy life in good health and without limitations.