By: Dr. Beth Templin
Diabetes is a common condition affecting many aging adults. Currently there are more than 34 million Americans who have been diagnosed with diabetes and another 88 million who have pre-diabetes.
As most people are aware, diabetes happens when you have too much sugar in your blood. The extra sugar in the blood causes damage to so many areas of your body, leading to the many complications of diabetes. These include: loss of vision, damage to your kidneys and cardiovascular disease.
Diabetics commonly lose feeling in their hands and feet as well. This puts them at risk for developing wounds on their feet that may even result in amputation. People with diabetes are also more likely to develop memory and hearing loss.
Prevention is the easiest way to avoid these complications. The good news is, even if you already have diabetes, you can manage your sugars better and limit the damage by making some simple changes in your life. It's common knowledge that eating better, exercising more and maintaining a healthy weight will help avoid developing diabetes. It can also help to manage your diabetes better. How does exercise specifically help?
When you become inactive, you begin to lose your muscle mass much faster than those who remain active. As you lose muscle, you also lose the receptors on the outside of the muscle that pull sugars out of the blood and into the muscle. When you participate in strength training, you increase the amount of muscle you have in your body. As a result, you have more sugar receptors on the outside of the muscles. This allows your body to be more effective at pulling the sugars out of the blood for the muscles to use as energy.
Research has shown that right after exercise, the muscles are even more sensitive to insulin. Insulin is the hormone responsible for helping sugar move from the blood into the muscles. This means your muscles have a greater ability to pull sugars out of your blood. These effects can help lower your blood sugar for up to 24 hours after you exercise.
Regular exercise has been shown to reduce your A1C level, which is the blood test that measures your average blood sugar levels over the past 3 months. Exercise can move Diabetics from needing insulin injections to just oral medications. It can improve those who needed oral medications to being able to manage their diabetes with just diet and exercise.
Strength training also helps boost your metabolism, so that you burn more calories all day long, even when you are at rest. This helps you to maintain a healthy weight, which contributes to preventing or managing your diabetes better.
The best part is it's never too late to get started. Exercise is beneficial no matter where you are in the progression; from being pre-diabetic to being dependent on insulin. The most important thing is to get started on a routine that will help you rebuild your muscle strength and get your heart rate up so that you maximize the benefits of your exercise routine.
Dr. Beth helps adults 55+ maximize their independence and fitness, so they can continue to enjoy a full and active life.