The Role of Exercise in the Management of Type 2 Diabetes
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The Role of Exercise in the Management of Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes is a chronic condition where the body becomes resistant to insulin and has a reduced capacity to produce insulin in the pancreas. It represents approximately 90% of all diabetes cases, is more prevalent in adults over the age of 45 and can go undiagnosed. With this said, lifestyle modification and intervention with exercise and diet can have a positive impact on the management of Type 2 Diabetes.

Risk Factors

Type 2 Diabetes may be influenced by non-modifiable risk factors such as genetics, age, family history and ethnicity. However, individuals also place themselves at an increased risk if they present with the following modifiable risk factors:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Obesity
  • Waist Circumference >94cm in men and 88cm in women
  • BMI >30kg.m2
  • Physical Inactivity and sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking

Benefits of Exercise

Research has shown that exercise has both positive acute and chronic effects on the management of type 2 diabetes. Physical activity has been shown to have favorable effects on insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake, decrease blood glucose levels during and following exercise, and improve blood pressure and cholesterol. Sustained exercise also results in decreased mortality and CV risk, improved cardiovascular fitness and muscle mass, improved body composition and overall well-being.

How Much and What Type?

For those with diabetes, it is recommended that individuals participate in a combination of exercise modalities including cardiovascular conditioning and resistance training.

Duration for CV conditioning can range from 210 minutes of moderate exercise or 125 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. Resistance training should last approximately 60mins (and can be included in the time above), it should be progressive and focus on multijoint exercises and large muscle groups. Evidence highlights the complimentary effects both these training modalities have on metabolic, body composition and fitness outcomes.

In conclusion, exercise has a multitude of benefits for individuals with type 2 diabetes, including increased insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake, improved cardiovascular fitness, strength and muscle mass, along with improved physical functioning and overall well being. If you have diabetes it is important to speak to your healthcare provider to ensure beginning exercise is safe and appropriate for you.

Hordern, M. D., Dunstan, D. W., Prins, J. B., Baker, M. K., Singh, M. A. F., & Coombes, J. S. (2012). Exercise prescription for patients with type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes: a position statement from Exercise and Sport Science Australia. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 15(1), 25-31.
Chatterjee, S., Khunti, K., & Davies, M. J. (2017). Type 2 diabetes. The lancet, 389(10085), 2239-2251.