Diabetes is a disease that affects 25.8 million Americans according to the American Diabetes Association. This is over 8% of the total population in the United States. There are two types of diabetes, which I will not go into great detail to describe, but very basically Type I is often referred to as juvenile diabetes and Type II is Adult Onset type that is often a result of poor diet, sedentary living, and obesity.
Health care practitioners and exercise scientist have long promoted physical activity as an effective way to help with symptoms of diabetes, but more and more research today offers proof that exercise can not only help with symptom management, but also in preventing development of the disease all together (Type II).
For those with diabetes, exercise helps in two ways. First, exercise helps with controlling weight and secondly, exercise helps to lower and stabilize blood sugar levels. While most doctors suggest cardiovascular works (as it increases breathing rates and strengthens the heart) more research is promoting weight and resistance training. In fact, one study I looked into found that weight training alone may reduce the risk of developing diabetes.
Even low intensity physical activities have a positive effect on diabetes management, including such activities as walking, biking, gardening and housework. These activities are easy enough for most people of all ages to engage in to some degree. Obviously more exercise can reduce the risk of diabetes even further. Before beginning any exercise routine, it is advisable to check with your healthcare practitioner for an evaluation and to discuss potential risks.
One concern that many diabetics have is the nerve damage that they might have experienced in their legs and feet. If this is the case, I recommend that these folks look into water exercise as a very low impact form of exercise. Many local pools and fitness centers offer an array of water fitness classes that are lead by certified instructors. Exercising in water helps to drastically reduce the pressure on your legs, ankles, knees and other joints, and in this way, it can make exercising more accessible to people with issues of this nature.
Also folks with joint issues should consider some weight training exercises that focus more on the upper body. Even a small amount of weekly weight training appears to have substantial benefits in terms of lowering the risk of developing diabetes. An independent study found that men who lifted weight for just up to 59 minutes a week lowered their risk of diabetes by 12%. Weight training is also an effective means of strengthening the skeletal system and joints, as well as building muscles that surround the joints, which is important for stability and can actually help lessen joint pain.
As a Chiropractor and certified fitness trainer, I always recommend that once folks gain clearance to begin an exercise regime from their healthcare professional, they begin slowly. That being said, prior to beginning any exercise routine, check with your healthcare provider to discuss any potential risks.
If you have not exercised regularly in quite some time, begin with 15-20 minutes of low-intensity exercise 2 to 3 times per week, and then gradually increase the duration of your workouts after 3 weeks. Walking and water exercise are great ways to get started and not only will you reduce the risk of Type II diabetes, you will also burn calories and be working towards a more active lifestyle!