Type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle disease that has become more prevalent in the recent years. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Diabetes Australia, around 1.7 million Australians have diabetes (either type 1 or 2), with 280 Australians developing it every day.

It is also costing the Australian Health System an estimated $14.6 billion! I would go as far as to call this an epidemic of the 21st century!

Unfortunately, there is no known “cure” for diabetes (however, there are reported cases of people going from Type 2 Diabetes to insulin resistance), and such requires long term management of one’s lifestyle.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is when the pancreas does not respond to the hormone known as insulin, which then inhibits the body’s ability to utilise sugar (glucose) into the cells to be use as energy.

This causes a rise in the amount of glucose in the bloodstream (blood glucose levels). This can either be from a lack of production of insulin or an increased resistance from the body’s cells . Diabetes is divided into three categories (or types):

• Type 1 Diabetes: This is an autoimmune disease where the body’s own immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
• Type 2 Diabetes: This is considered a ‘lifestyle’ disease and is characterised by a reduced production of insulin from the pancreas and an inability of the body’s cells to respond fully to the insulin.
• Gestational Diabetes: Occurs during pregnancy, where the body cannot keep up with the extra demand for insulin production resulting in high blood glucose levels

How can exercise help?

A structured exercise program, consisting of both resistance and aerobic training, aids greatly in the management of diabetes, especially for type 2 diabetes.

As we exercise, the body uses stored energy, as our energy depletes, it must be replenished (this is done via glycolysis). This response promotes the body’s cells to respond to insulin, which then allows the glucose to enter the cells, which then in turn, lowers blood glucose levels.

This makes exercise an effective way of managing blood glucose levels, while both aerobic and resistance training will help manage blood glucose levels, the added benefit of resistance training is as the muscles grow and get stronger, there is a greater amount of glucose utilised by the muscle cells for energy.

Along with a structured diet from a dietitian, this is the ideal way to manage diabetes in the long term.

As always, talk to your Doctor or Diabetes Educator before commencing an exercise program (there are programs for exercise and diabetes claimable under Medicare) and make sure you are properly assessed by and Exercise Physiologist or Physiotherapist to get the best exercise program for you!

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2013). Australian Health Survey: Users’ Guide, 2011-13. Retrieved September 19, 2015
McGinley, S.K., Armstrong, M.J., Boulé, N.G., & Sigal, R.J. (2015). Effects of exercise training using resistance bands on glycaemic control and strength in type 2 diabetes mellitus: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Acta Diabetologica, 52(2), pp 221-230.
Yang, Z., Scott, C.A., Mao, C., Tang, J., & Farmer, A.J. (2014). Resistance Exercise Versus Aerobic Exercise for Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine, 4(4), pp 487-499.

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