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Diabetes and the Role of Physical Activity

Updated: Jul 8, 2021

Diabetes is a permanent disease, which develops either due to the inability (type 1) or inefficiency (type 2) of the body’s ability to produce or manage insulin and subsequently blood sugar levels. Insulin is sometimes described at the “key” to energy production, since it allows sugar to enter cells and be used for energy.

Diabetes is the fastest growing chronic condition in Australia, with one person diagnosed every 5 minutes. Of these, 85-90% have type 2 Diabetes. (1)

There are a number of factors that place us at an increased risk of developing Diabetes. Some of these, such as our family history, genes and age we do not have the power to change. Yet the majority of risk factors such as; weight, food choices, smoking, blood pressure, high cholesterol and our physical activity levels are largely within our control.

The evidence of benefit on the role of exercise in the prevention and control of insulin resistance, pre diabetes, gestational diabetes (which develops during pregnancy), type 2 diabetes and many health related complications associated with diabetes are widely documented. (2) Yet 60-70% of Australian adults are not sufficiently active to benefit from the multiple health benefits that being active provides. (3) Our lifestyle has digressed a long way from hunting and gathering. As such, we now need to go out of our way to create opportunity for incidental and active leisure time pursuits.

Exercise helps insulin work more effectively, thereby assisting with blood sugar control. It also helps prevent many secondary risk factors for diabetes, such as blood pressure. While we exercise, our heart pumps harder, thereby making it more efficient at rest. Exercise assists with weight management, by increasing lean muscle tissue and metabolism. Cholesterol and stress are also proven to benefit from physical activity. Since these are all important risk factors for Diabetes, exercise offers a great return. It should be noted that the benefits on sugar levels are fairly transient. It is therefore important to be active EVERY day.

So how do we go about becoming more active, when so many of us are predominantly sedentary during our working day, time poor, don’t enjoy exercise, too tired …. ?? Monitoring the amount of steps taken during the day is a great starting point. A basic pedometer ($12) from the Heart Foundation or a more sophisticated ‘Fitbit’ (from $79). There are also activity tracker apps on some phones now. Get a reality track on how active you ACTUALLY are, then set yourself a challenge and try to raise the bar. The Heart Foundation recommend 10,000 steps per day as a guide (around 8km).

Engage in at least one active hobby in your free time; riding a bike, surfing, belly dancing, diving, the possibilities are endless …

If you are new to exercise, have any predisposing health conditions or would just like some guidance, inspiration or support with an exercise program, then seek the guidance of an Exercise Physiologist accredited by Exercise Sports Science Australia (national governing body).

If you have a chronic condition such as Diabetes you may be eligible for a Care Plan from your GP, offering substantially discounted rates for Exercise Physiology services, Dieticians, Podiatry and other multidisciplinary providers. Most private health funds (depending on your level of cover) also offer rebates for Exercise Physiologist services.

Take a positive step towards improving your quality of life by becoming more active today. Not everyone is designed to be an Olympic athlete. The greatest benefits are made from doing nothing to something.

For more information, please contact one of our friendly staff on (08) 6162 2616 or BOOK ONLINE now for an initial assessment.

(1) Australian Diabetes Association 2015 (2) Colberg et al analysis of studies printed in the American Diabetes Association Diabetes Care Magazine 2010 (3) Australian Health Survey, 2015

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