Benefits of physical exercise for people with type 2 diabetes
Regular exercise, including both aerobic activity and resistance training, offers various and substantial health benefits for people with type 2 diabetes.
Studies have shown that exercise promotes better blood glucose control and helps reduce excess body weight — both of which are significant risk factors for diabetes.
Specific types of exercise may also help with health problems that older adults with diabetes often experience, such as impaired balance and flexibility.
Other evidence suggests that not exercising may increase some of the risks associated with type 2 diabetes. These risks include cardiovascular disease, which refers to conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels, and complications related to blood vessel damage, such as eye and kidney disease.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that more than 34 million people in the United States have diabetes, about 90–95% of whom have type 2.
Physical exercise, as well as other lifestyle practices, help people manage diabetes.
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), exercise is critically important for managing blood glucose. Understanding how type 2 diabetes causes blood glucose to rise makes it clear how physical activity can help.
The pancreas makes the hormone insulin, which enables cells to take in glucose from the blood to use as energy. In people with type 2 diabetes, a problem called insulin resistance occurs whereby the cells become less sensitive and responsive to insulin.
As a compensatory measure, the pancreas makes more insulin to get the cells to respond. However, because the pancreas cannot keep up the necessary pace, blood glucose levels eventually rise.
Exercise helps counter the effects of type 2 diabetes in several ways. It increases insulin sensitivity, which helps the cells use any available insulin to take up glucose from the blood.
Also, when muscle cells contract during exercise, they are able to take in glucose even when insulin is unavailable.
The blood glucose-lowering effects of exercise last up to about 24 hours following a workout.
Although all exercise helps counter the effects of diabetes by promoting weight loss and increasing insulin sensitivity, the specific types below provide additional advantages:
1- Aerobic exercise: Regular aerobic training lowers blood pressure, triglyceride levels, and A1C test results, which provide the average blood glucose level of the past 2–3 months. Research has linked moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise to substantially lower cardiovascular and overall death risks in people with diabetes.
2- Resistance exercise: Diabetes is a risk factor for poor muscle strength. Resistance training helps counter this effect, as it increases muscle mass and strength.
3- Other types of exercise: Older adults with diabetes tend to have limitations in balance and flexibility. Stretching exercises increase flexibility and range of motion, while balance training decreases the risk of falls and improves gait. Tai chi may improve balance, enhance quality of life, and lessen the symptoms of diabetes that affect the nervous system.