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The Effects of Exercise on Diabetes

written by: DaniellaNicole • edited by: lrohner • updated: 8/28/2010

Is there an exercise effect on diabetes? Learn how exercise can be especially helpful to those with diabetes in managing and sometimes reversing their illness.

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    Blood Glucose/Sugar Levels

    There are multiple benefits of adding physical activity and exercise into a diabetic's daily lifestyle. One exercise effect on diabetes is that when a person exercises, the body uses the glucose in the bloodstream, sending it out to the cells in the body that use it for energy. This lowers the overall blood sugar levels in the body.

    Exercise also makes the body require less insulin by increasing sensitivity to it. This means the body is less likely to send more insulin than needed throughout the body. This helps diabetics more easily control their blood glucose levels, and can result in type 2 diabetics requiring less or no medication.

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    Weight Control

    Exercise can help diabetics either maintain a healthy weight or lose extra pounds. This occurs because more calories are being burned and because the body may begin to handle glucose more efficiently, as outlined in the Lean Muscle Mass section.

    Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce or eliminate the need for diabetes medications in type 2 diabetics, with many patients finding themselves ‘diabetes-free’ once they have lost weight and established healthy eating and lifestyle habits.

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    Energy

    When blood sugar levels are in balance, the result is a feeling of more energy that lasts consistently through the day. This increase in energy can result in higher overall productivity.

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    Lean Muscle Mass

    Exercise helps build lean muscle mass, which can be helpful to those who want to maintain or lose weight. This is because the body will decrease in body fat by using glucose in the proper way, as lean muscle mass is developed. The body can use the increased metabolism and the glucose uptake of the muscles to help regulate itself.

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    Bone Density

    Bone density and bone strength are both increased through exercise; specifically with weight training. This occurs because the bone mass is increased through the stimulation of bone formation through exercise that includes weight bearing and physical impact, such as is found in weight-training.

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    Blood Pressure

    Exercise lowers blood pressure by first building up the strength of the heart. When a heart is strong, it can pump blood with less effort. This lower effort reduces the force exuded on arteries, which in turn lowers blood pressure.

    Lowering blood pressure levels consistently can result in the need for blood pressure medication being reduced or eliminated. It can also decrease risks for stroke and heart disease in diabetics, who are typically at higher risk.

    A related benefit is that exercise can help reduce stress, which in turn can help lower blood pressure, as well.

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    Cholesterol

    Exercise naturally causes the body to lower LDL cholesterol (“bad’ cholesterol (and increasing the HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol). This exercise effect on diabetes can help the diabetic avoid blood vessel and heart disease. It can also affect how much medication, if any, the patient will need to take for cholesterol level management.

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    References

    Diabetes Guide: Type 2 Diabetes and Exercise. WebMD. http://diabetes.webmd.com/guide/exercise-guidelines

    Food & Fitness: Fitness. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/fitness/

    Diabetes: Treatments and Drugs. Mayo Clinic Staff. March 17, 2010. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/diabetes/DS01121/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs