We are always being told to exercise because exercise is good for us just like eating our greens is good for us… It isn’t enough to just tell people that exercise is good because that isn’t going to make everyone sign up for a gym and use it tomorrow. We need to understand WHY. Exercise is beneficial for us for many reasons such as relieving stress, developing better sleep patterns, weight loss, helps strengthen your muscles and bones and the list goes on. One of the biggest populations it can help are the people suffering from diabetes or those who are at a high risk of diabetes. According the center for disease control (CDC) 29.1 million people or 9.3% of the population in United States suffers from diagnosed diabetes and about 8.1 million people have undiagnosed diabetes. There are two forms of diabetes (Type I) and (Type II). Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults and only about 5% of people with diabetes have this form of the disease. In type I diabetes the body does not produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. Type II diabetes is the most common form of the disease. Type II diabetes occurs when the body does not use insulin properly. This is called insulin resistance. At first, your pancreas produces extra insulin to make up for it. Over time it isn’t able to keep up and can’t make enough insulin to keep your blood sugar at normal levels.
Now that we can understand what diabetes is we can go on to understand how exercise is beneficial for managing it and/or preventing it. Exercise is beneficial for weight loss which is necessary for a majority of type II diabetics. One symptom of type II diabetes is “central obesity” or excess fat in the mid-section. Central obesity is also a common symptom for pre-diabetics. Exercising will assist in the weight loss process which will in turn help reduce the elevated sugar levels. During exercise yours cells have the ability to use available insulin to take up glucose. When you exercise your muscles contract a mechanism different from insulin is activated. This mechanism allows the cells to take up glucose and use it for energy whether insulin is available or not. In short, exercise has an insulin like effect on the body.