Trials in the US, Finland and China have shown that moderate weight loss combined with an exercise program can ward off impending type 2 diabetes by getting blood glucose (sugar) under control and generally improving markers for this disease of glucose, fat and insulin metabolism. Diagnosed diabetics also benefit from regular exercise in a similar way.
Here’s how exercise helps:
- Physical activity helps you manage weight. You need to include a sensible eating program, but weight loss improves your ability to process glucose and ward off diabetes.
- Exercise uses glucose stored in muscle and, over time and with increased fitness, enhances the amount of glucose you can store, lowering blood glucose in the process.
- Weight training uses muscle glucose more than fat, as does other high-intensity exercise. Regular sessions of weight lifting lower your blood glucose and open up the “gates” for glucose transport.
- Weight training also builds more muscle. More muscle provides additional storage capacity for glucose.
- Glucose transport to muscle during exercise does not require insulin. In fact, insulin goes quiet during exercise in people with normal metabolism and not injecting insulin.
- Physical activity enhances insulin sensitivity even when you’re not exercising. Insulin sensitivity is the ability of insulin to store glucose.
- Day to day, exercise gives you improved glucose storage when you’re exercising, and improved glucose storage when you’re not. You get a synergy of effect when you exercise.
- Cardiovascular fitness is a result of aerobic conditioning. Cardio type exercise is best for this. Heart and lung fitness is associated with protection against diabetes and heart disease. The fitter you are, the better your chances — even allowing for some excess weight.
- Faulty fat metabolism and high levels of fat (triglycerides) in the blood raise your chances of getting diabetes. Exercise of any sort can help normalize blood fat levels. Look to be under 150 mg/dL or 1.69 mmol/L. When you’re really fit and healthy and have low overall body fat, this number will be closer to 100 mg/dL (1.1 mmol/L). You should aim for this.
- Regular exercise, especially higher-intensity exercise, increases your metabolism when you’re not exercising. This not only helps lower blood fats and glucose, it helps you reach and maintain normal weight.