Heart attacks, strokes, nerve damage, kidney and eye disease--these are just a few of the medical complications that can result from having diabetes. Medication alone is not enough to stave them off. A healthy lifestyle that includes nutritious foods and regular exercise has miraculous results in preventing diabetes complications. Here's why and how exercise helps.
Aerobic exercise strengthens muscle, improves both good and bad cholesterol levels, reduces fat and lowers blood pressure. Stronger muscles are more receptive to insulin, which helps cells absorb and use glucose, their main source of energy, more effectively. Reduced body fat combined with good nutrition also helps cells metabolize glucose more effectively.
Aerobic exercises include walking, swimming, low impact aerobics, water aerobics and riding a stationary bike.
Strength training (resistance or weight training) builds muscle by lifting weights or pushing against something that resists your weight, as in doing pushups. Strength training also decreases body fat by raising the metabolism, increases glucose uptake by the muscles and improves the ability to store glucose.
In a study of Hispanic men and women, 16 weeks of strength training produced dramatic improvements in sugar control, comparable to taking diabetes medication. The study volunteers also became stronger, gained muscle, lost body fat, had less depression, and had increased self-confidence. In other studies, strength training improved insulin sensitivity to the same extent as aerobic exercise. Extended periods of training improved blood sugar control to the same extent as taking diabetes medication.
Strength training also helps improve your quality of life by helping you lose weight, lowering your risk for heart disease and making it possible for you to continue engaging in everyday activities such as walking, lifting and climbing stairs as you get older. And it reduces your risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures.
Begin with Caution
Before you begin an exercise program see your doctor to discuss your physical condition and limitations. Your doctor may recommend exercises or a personal trainer to get you started.
For more information visit the American Diabetes Association Web site.
Preventing Further Complications
Diabetes medication alone is not enough.
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