It’s hard to ignore the prevalence of diabetes in our society. An estimated 25.8 million people in the U.S. had the disorder as of 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But there is a silver lining: When it comes to the most common type of diabetes, type 2, physical activity can assist with both prevention and management.What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder characterized by high blood sugar; it’s a leading cause of heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, and high blood pressure, among other conditions. With type 2 diabetes, the body is resistant to the insulin it needs to remove sugar (glucose) from the blood.
How to determine your risk for type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is caused by a combination of lifestyle factors (BMI, diet, physical activity) and genetic factors. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) website has a risk test that you can take to determine your level of risk for the disease; use it as a platform for discussion with your doctor.
Regular physical activity aids in the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes.
The good news is that type 2 diabetes can be successfully prevented and/or managed with a combination of healthy eating and physical activity (and, in some cases, medication).
According to the ADA, physical activity lowers blood glucose by making your body more sensitive to the insulin you make, and by burning glucose (calories). Other possible benefits of exercise include lower blood pressure, increased good cholesterol (HDL), lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides, lower risk of other health problems, increased energy, improved sleep quality, and reduced stress, anxiety, and depression--all of which aid in the prevention or management of type 2 diabetes.
Try to fit in 30 minutes of movement a day.
The ADA recommends that adults aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days, and general recommendations from authoritative sources are for about 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week spread out over three to five days. That doesn’t mean you have to be a slave to the gym; any activity that gets your heart rate up and causes a light sweat will count: walking, gardening, yardwork, cleaning, swimming, dancing, sports, etc. (In fact, recent studies have indicated that people who walk regularly have a lower risk of diabetes.)
The ADA also recommends strength training exercises twice a week in order to build muscle, which will in turn burn more calories/glucose, even when you’re resting.
If these recommendations seem overwhelming, start small at first. Even 10 minutes of activity here and there will provide some benefit.
Make physical activity enjoyable.
Experiment until you figure out which kinds of activities you like best. Here are a few suggestions:
- If you love the outdoors: Try walking, biking, gardening/yardwork, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, or sports.
- If you prefer staying at home: Purchase consoles/games aimed at physical activity; use a treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical machine in front of the TV; try DVDs or exercise programs on demand.
- If you need social interaction: Walk with a coworker on a lunch break; meet up with friends for backyard sports or racquetball; join a class or runner’s group.
- If you like to get down: Have dance parties with your music collection; sign up for dance lessons; try fun dance-fitness fusion classes like Zumba, Nia, or Barre Bee Fit.
If you’re stumped as to what you might like, experiment! Many gyms/rec centers offer trial periods for classes, and you can ask friends and family what types of activities they’d recommend.
Find ways to work around physical limitations.
If you have a medical condition or physical disability that restricts movement, discuss with your doctor the types of movement that would be safe for you to try. Popular low-impact activities include walking, swimming, water aerobics, yoga, and pilates. Many gyms and rec centers also offer classes specifically geared toward low-impact aerobics or strength training.