Weapon in the War on Diabetes – Exercise

An interesting question was asked of me the other day.  Beth Dole asked me if I thought exercise was a drug.  Exercise as a drug.  Would it qualify as being a drug?  Does it do the same thing as a drug does?  Hmmmm.

Being me, I looked up the definition of a drug just so I wouldn’t be going down the wrong road with my thoughts.  So, from Webster’s Dictionary:

according to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (1) : a substance recognized in an official pharmacopoeia or formulary (2) : a substance intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease (3) : a substance other than food intended to affect the structure or function of the body (4) : a substance intended for use as a component of a medicine but not a device or a component, part, or accessory of a device

Look at Number 2:…intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease…Exercise qualifies especially for Diabetics.  It’s one of the best weapons we have to fight the War more effectively.  For me, my walking and now resistance exercise, lowers my glucose readings by 15 to 20 points – better than adding more drugs to my body, right?  

Because exercise seems to qualify as a drug, Beth wrote a post. My apologies to any readers we might share, but it’s an important topic.  Regular readers here know I address it on a consistent basis.  You can see it on her blog.

Exercise is Medicine for your Diabetes

If you have type 2 diabetes, regular physical activity is essential for controlling your blood glucose and managing your weight. Exercise also improves how well your body responds to insulin, which may reduce the need for medication because your muscle and fat will do a better job of taking glucose out of the blood.  Furthermore, exercise may help protect you against heart disease, which often accompanies type 2 diabetes, by reducing body fat, blood pressure and improving your cholesterol levels. It will help you better understand your diet and exercise if you closely monitor your blood glucose levels to  understand how you respond to different types of activities.

If the benefits of exercise could be put into a pill would you take it?

If so why would you take it? Most likely because you know that pill is extremely helpful.  It would make your muscles stronger, including your heart muscle thus decreasing risk of death from heart disease. It would lower your bad cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure and blood sugar, and increase the good cholesterol. It would improve your memory. It would slow osteoporosis. It would make you less likely to have falls. It would improve your mood and lessen symptoms of depression.

Exercise is Medicine!

Exercise does all this and more, however it is extremely difficult to get people to follow exercise advice or adhere to an exercise program? Why? Because taking a pill is so much easier, and maybe because the cost of medicine is covered by insurance. So many take such care to take medications, vitamins, eat healthier, but still find it difficult to adhere to medical advice to exercise. It could be do to the information out there seems conflicting, or too complicated.

Exercise the Diabetes Drug

You take your diabetes medications every day correct? Most people also have concerns about the side effects and the cost of their medication. Yet exercise is one of the best medications out their with minimal side effects. Just like most diabetes drugs it has to be taken regularly to get the benefits, and there is a specific dosage.

Frequency of use: 6-7 days per week.

  • This regulates the body, you need  a certain amount of energy to do this from your body and its energy sources (food and insulin). The more regular you exercise the less wild blood sugar swings.

Intensity:

  •  To a level that feels fairly light to somewhat hard, but not hard. Bring your heart rate up above your resting heart rate, break a light sweat, breath a little harder – yet be able to carry on a conversation

Time or Duration:

  • 30 minutes or more per day. It can be broken up or done all at once.

Type:

  • Aerobic – meaning continuous movement that requires oxygen – walking, biking, hiking, spinning, swimming, rowing, elliptical, recumbent equipment, steppers, tia chi, yoga, karate, pilates, belly dancing, dance classes, circuit training, cross country skiing, snow shoeing, kayaking, rollerblading, ice skating….you get the idea.
  • Resistance training – it doesn’t have to be heavy body building weight training, but working with your body as resistance, dumbbells, resistive bands, weight machines, free weights all help to maintain and build muscle. Try doing some sort of resistive training 2-3 days per week.

Side effects:

While there are many benefits to exercise for people with diabetes, it should be noted that there are several potential risks as well, including a worsening of eye complications in people with conditions such as proliferative retinopathy when doing specific exercises (such as weight lifting- with heavy weights that create a large amount of strain), hypoglycemia (low blood glucose), and hyperglycemia (high blood glucose).

Building the Routine

Most people take there medications at a certain time every day, brush their teeth at a certain time, go to appointments because they are scheduled at a certain time. Exercise needs to be scheduled and worked into the daily routine. What works for you? First thing in the morning? Most studies show people who exercise first thing in the morning are more likely to stick with the routine for the long haul. Can you develop a routine –  a walk after dinner, hitting the gym on the drive home from work, fifteen minutes at lunch and fifteen after work? Keeping a log helps, and be accountable to someone with the log, make sure you bring it to your doctors appointments and discuss.

Can you stick with if for the long-term?

It takes six months of exercise to establish a habit.

In medicine we talk about the stages of change

Where are you in the stages of change when it comes to exercise?

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I am not a doctor or health professional. I am just a guy who is working everyday to control Type 2 Diabetes. My goal is to offer hope, help and solutions for day-to-day living for the diabetic. The disease can be controlled. It can be managed. And, you can do it!

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