Let’s dissect into its skeleton first.
Branching this off into two streams; Type 1 and type 2 diabetes, their effects are the same — high volumes of glucose in the blood but their methods of occurrences vary drastically.
Type 1 will occurs in individuals from birth; it’s a defective condition that will arise from the body not being able to produce the hormone insulin sufficiently to deal with the excess sugars in the body.
Think of it this way: A production line for a cereal factory hires several workers, say twenty, on the end of the belt for packaging purposes so as to cope with a fast-paced environment, but what happens if the number of workers reduces to one-fourth of it? The workload will exceed the capacity of the five workers who are working at the end of the belt, they will lag behind in packaging and slowly but surely, the cereal produced will start to overflow and maybe even start pouring over the belts.
This is exactly how Type 1 diabetes works, there just isn’t enough insulin produced by the individual’s body to cope with the amount of glucose, this is attributed to genetical reasons and so which are rather too deep to dwell into for this article.
Second chapter: Type 2 diabetes. This is not a condition in which someone will be born with but rather something that the individual will grow to develop in their later years of life. It’s hard to specify an exact age but post-adolescence years have recorded the highest rates of this condition.
With this classification, the individuals’ insulin sensitivity — the body’s response to the hormone reduces. Tracing back to our example again, this will mean there will indeed still be twenty workers on the line but we can say half of them have either sustained an injury, become weak due to working longer hours or simply working at a slower rate.
Despite the differences in the occurrences of the two conditions, their effect will still remain the same — overall increase in blood glucose.
Biology of the Hormones
Exercise is frequently recommended in the treatment of type 1and 2 diabetes mellitus and is said to improve the uptake of glucose in the body by a means of making the body more sensitive to insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is naturally produced in the body which strikes a balance between ‘sugars’ in the body and keeps them under a natural check.
However, there are two instances in which this mechanism is interfered with, subsequently leading to a rise in the sugar levels (otherwise known as glucose) and because we don’t need this excess glucose in the bloodstream we are diagnosed with a condition known as Diabetes.
Now, insulin injections, tablets, surgical options have all been considered well and fair by everybody, but what seems to be still in the dark, are the benefits of exercise to treat diabetes.
Personally, I have come across patients who have been tagged as ‘diabetes-free’ after months of exercise therapy. They were still seeing a doctor keep their vitals in check and monitor if things don’t go haywire, but at the same time would come and see us at the clinic twice a week to carry out their exercise sessions. Here’s what they did, why I think exercise should be one of the cornerstones in the management of diabetes and why I believe ‘exercise is medicine’.
The Exercise paradigm
Your muscles are essentially a sponge. Okay, hear this, when you dip a sponge in a bucket full of water the obvious happens, it will get soaked up full of water and can squeeze the water out of the sponge and out of the bucket. Do this several times, what happens after several attempts? The bucket will be empty.
When physical activity and exercises are carried out, the sugars that are in your blood (most of which is now excess) will get soaked up by the working muscles*.
When this is repeated several times, just like soaking a sponge in the bucket until you empty the bucket, the high sugar levels in the blood consequently tone down and come to a level.
*muscles use sugar as their ‘food’ to generate energy which allows them to produce a movement.
The theory is a loop.
Great, you got the water out of the bucket, but for how long? At some point, you’re going to fill it up again and you’ll need to re-do the procedure to maintain normal levels.
In applied theory, as humans we will eat again, that means sugars will rise again demanding us to exercise on a routine basis and not just once.
Where did the insulin go?
In simple terms, exercise is Insulin’s best friend. Exercise increases insulin’s sensitivity, which will then allow it to perform its task with due diligence.
What kinds of exercise will help with the control of diabetes?
- Essentially, 30 minutes of work every day is recommended i.e. walking, cleaning and household activities that keep you moving.
- Exercises that target a large percentage of the bigger muscles i.e back muscles, legs, chest which can be achieved with exercises such as *pushups, squats, lunges, planks, walking, running and so on.
- If you think you’re active on normal occasions and can handle intensive short bouts of exercise then this would be more beneficial to you than opting for moderate activities, however, they both serve the purpose.
- All of these exercise examples are easy to carry out and can be done from the comfort of your home, leaving you with no excuses to not have fancy equipment at home. Perfect for our situation right now!
Exercise is highly recommended for patients diagnosed with diabetes but there are several factors that will also help them overcome it. If you know someone with the condition, be the one who accompanies them to jogs or walks, be their workout buddy, if they smoke encourage them to quit, if they’re constantly reaching out for salts, sugars and fats, help them lose the habit. In a nutshell, do the right thing, because