Type 2 Diabetes is one of the most common chronic conditions that affect elderly Australians. Diabetes is caused by excessive and high levels of blood sugar. In uncontrolled cases, this increase in blood sugar levels can lead to severe organ damage and reduce quality of life and overall life expectancy. Exercise has been shown to play a vital and crucial role the management and prevention of diabetes.
How does exercise affect diabetes?
Exercise has been proven to be one of the most effective methods to manage and prevent diabetes. Specifically, exercise will directly lower blood sugar levels and lower body fat, both of which have a direct effect on diabetes. Additionally, other benefits of exercise such as controlling weight, lowering blood pressure and improving cardiovascular fitness are beneficial in reducing the complications of diabetes such as cardiovascular disease and stroke.
What exercises should I do for diabetes?
All exercises have been shown to have a positive effect for diabetes. Research has identified that the combination of resistance exercise and cardiovascular exercise has a more positive impact on blood sugars than either exercise in isolation.
An exercise as simple as walking will improve the complications of diabetes. Studies have identified that people with diabetes who walked at least for two hours per week significantly reduced the likelihood of cardiovascular disease than those who were sedentary.
Importantly, an individualised and specific exercise program should be developed for the management and prevention of diabetes. Given that it is not uncommon for those who experience diabetes to have a range of other co-morbidities such as arthritis or osteoporosis, a physiotherapist can play a crucial role. Physiotherapists and exercise physiologists are well placed to prescribe a safe, individualised and holistic exercise program for those that experience diabetes that also takes into consideration other co-morbidities.
Balance exercises to reduce the likelihood of falls is also important for those with diabetes. Diabetes sufferers can experience complications such as decreased sensation and vascular changes in their feet. This common complication of diabetes affects balance and increases the likelihood of falls.
What exercises can I do at home for diabetes?
Any exercise program for diabetes needs to be practical and something that can be performed on a regular basis. A home based exercise program is a great practical way to exercise for diabetes on a regular basis.
Start with a brisk walking program. Whether this be incidentally when walking the dog, or walking to the shops, or even with friends, a brisk walking program is a suitable exercise for everyone. Resistance exercises are equally important. Using your body weight to do exercises such as squats, lunges or heel raises are great resistance exercises which can assist to reduce blood sugar levels.
Other exercises that can be performed at home to assist with lowering blood sugar levels include cycling. A stationary bike or set of portable pedals can be a great investment for those with diabetes.
How to exercise with ulcers on your feet?
Foot ulcers and wounds can be a complication associated with diabetes. These complications of diabetes can be a disincentive to regular exercise. A podiatrist should be consulted regularly if you are a diabetes sufferer.
If foot ulcers are present, it is important to avoid exercises that place excessive stress through the feet. Exercises such as resistance training, Taichi, exercise bike or walking can be great options for those who have foot ulcers.
Appropriate and well-fitting footwear are also critical for exercises with foot ulcers. A podiatrist is well placed to advise on the best type of footwear for those with peripheral vascular disease. Importantly, regardless of the type of exercise, those with foot ulcers are strongly encouraged to inspect their feet before and after exercise.
Importantly, prior to starting any new exercise program, have a discussion with your medical professional. A combination of exercises involving strength and cardiovascular fitness can dramatically decrease and manage blood sugar levels. Taking a multi-disciplinary approach, your health professional team will be able to ensure you are safely doing the optimal exercise for the management of your diabetes.
Learn more about diabetes and exercise in Episode 5 of The Better Ageing Podcast:
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