October is the month of bright leaves, brisk mornings, and walks sponsored by both the American Diabetes Association and Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. In most areas, the walks are on two consecutive weekends, each having a different theme, but each give us the change to spend a part of our weekend showing others how important a cure is to us personally, as well as to support the programs that these associations provide for diabetics and their families.
Why exercise and diabetes? We are aware that a 3-pronged effort to control diabetes is essential. This includes diet, medication, and exercise. Exercise has many benefits for everyone, but for the diabetic it helps mood, lowers weight, and impacts the development of long term complications of diabetes. Research has correlated regular moderate exercise to reduced heart disease and more strenuous exercise to lower rates of diabetic retinopathy. Exercise specialists suggest both aerobic and strength training as muscle mass may be related to easier blood glucose control.
It is very important to have a physical examination before embarking on an exercise regime especially if you are over 40 years old or have had diabetes for more than 10 years. Think of the fact that when exercising, blood flow to the muscles can increase many fold and this may harm organs and blood vessels weakened by past high blood glucose levels. Nerve damage can also make exercise more of a challenge, as pain will not be felt and balance may be compromised. No excuses, though! Just change the type of exercise and provide adequate protection to your feet with proper exercise shoes.
One rule to remember is that the longer the exercise, the more intense it is, the more out of shape you are, or the higher your insulin levels, the more likely you are to suffer from low blood sugar. A word to the wise, then, is to be prepared. Know how many carbohydrates you will be burning and have a plan for quick and slow replacements of carbos, if necessary. You can obtain a list of how many grams of carbohydrates are used per hour during different exercises for your weight class from your health team. If they don’t have it, e-mail us, and we will e-mail you references.
Get Started and Reap the Benefits
The benefits of regular exercise for people with diabetes can not be underestimated and October is a good month to not only begin an exercise program, but to show your appreciation for local and national associations which promote public education, summer camps for children with diabetes, diabetic screenings, and research for a cure of diabetes. Even if you can not get up a team, you can call friends, have a party at the walk sight, volunteer to collect entry fees, man the walk route rest stops, or just clap as others return from a pleasant way to raise funds.
As government monies for research dwindle, it is up to all of us to get and stay involved. It is our disease, but we surely don’t want it to be our children’s and grandchildren’s. Oh, and by the way, as you walk, remember that in a study of Harvard graduates, researchers found that burning 2,500 calories a week which equals walking 3 miles an hour for 7 hours a week was correlated to increasing length of life and the new millennium is out there to be enjoyed!