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  • Sheri Colberg, PhD

Exercise: It Does a Body Good

Athletes around the world are now competing (and competing well) with diabetes. Scott Dunton, a professional surfer with type 1 diabetes, is just one example of how exercise does a body good!

However, there are some things I wish I had always known about exercising with diabetes...

Being active has always made me feel better, physically and emotionally. But here are some other things about exercise that I wish someone had told me years ago.

1) Exercise can help erase your blood glucose “mistakes”
  • Exercise acts as an extra dose of insulin, figuratively.

  • At rest, insulin is the main way to get glucose into muscle cells, but during exercise, glucose goes muscles without insulin (caused by muscle contractions).

  • Being regularly active makes your muscles more sensitive to insulin, so you will need lower doses of it overall.

  • What better way to help erase a little overeating of carbs (or some insulin resistance) than a moderate dose of exercise to lower your blood glucose?

2) Exercise doesn’t always make your blood glucose go down
  • It doesn’t always make your blood glucose come down, at least not right away.

  • During intense exercise, the glucose-raising hormones your body releases can raise your blood glucose (think high-intensity interval training).

  • Over a longer period of time (2-3 hours), it usually comes back down.

  • If you take insulin, take less than normal to correct a post-workout high or your blood glucose will likely be crashing low a few hours later.

  • A cool-down of less intense exercise (like walking) can help bring it back to normal, though.

3) Your muscle mass is critical to managing blood glucose levels
  • Exercise helps you build and retain your muscle mass, and muscles are the main place you store carbs after you eat them—like a gas tank.

  • Exercising helps use up stored carbs, but can also increase the size of the tank.

  • When you eat carbs post-exercise, they can easily go into storage with a little insulin (or sometimes none at all).

  • Being sedentary keeps the tank full and makes you resistant to insulin.

  • Aging alone can cause you to lose muscle mass over time.

  • Resistance training and/or high-intensity intervals build muscle more, so you need to include these activities regularly as part of your workouts.

4) It’s the best medicine there is
  • Control stress and stave off depression with exercise—and it has no bad side-effects!

  • Exercise is a natural antioxidant—better than supplements!

  • Being active prevents all sorts of cancers, including prostate and breast.

  • It will help you feel better and look younger than you are (and we can all use help with that).

  • You'll be even less likely to catch a cold, if you exercise moderately.

  • Don’t forget your daily dose of exercise "medicine"!

  • Standing more, taking extra steps, and fidgeting help--just be active all day long any way that you can!

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