Thu | Jun 24, 2021

Diabetes and exercise go hand in hand

Published:Wednesday | May 23, 2012 | 12:00 AM

As we continue to observe Child's Month, let's talk about juvenile diabetes or Type 1 diabetes. Children who are diabetic have special needs, their blood-glucose level needs to be carefully monitored, their insulin and medications taken at appropriate times and close attention paid to their diet. It is of great necessity for them to transition from dependence on others to independence, so they can manage the intricacies of a diabetic lifestyle and learn to take care of themselves even during childhood.

Diabetes and exercise go hand in hand so it is prudent to make regular physical activity a part of the diabetic child's lifestyle. Exercise will aid in weight management so overweight and obesity are less likely to occur. Exercise helps the body to use more blood sugar to generate energy and maintain the blood sugar at a normal level. Exercise improves the blood composition by reducing what is considered as the bad cholesterol, and contrastingly increasing the levels of the good cholesterol. In cases of the pancreas not producing sufficient insulin, physical activity improves the body's ability to use insulin more efficiently.

Complications of diabetes

Many complications that develop as a result of diabetes can be prevented or managed with the intervention of an active lifestyle. Physical activity is critical to efficient circulation of blood and other body fluids. Poor circulation is associated with the degeneration of tissues in the eye that could ultimately result in blindness. Poor circulation could also result in the breakdown of the skin and tissues of the feet that could result in pain, infection, ulceration or even amputation of the extremities.

Exercise reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke which also have a circulation affinity. High blood pressure often coexists with diabetes; this can cause kidney damage and, the worst-case scenario, kidney failure. High blood pressure can be controlled with the use of physical exercise.

Digestive problems

The complications of diabetes can also incur nerve damage and cause digestion problems, numbness, inability to discern sensations of touch, pain and general, or even specific, weakness in the body. These challenges can be resolved via the use of exercises that target and strengthen nerve and tissue function. Exercise increases the strength and frequency of nerve impulses that stimulate improved body function where such challenges exist, similar to athletic training that improves athletic performance.

There are important guidelines to be observed by persons with diabetes during exercise sessions for their safety, even though they can participate in just about any kind of physical activity. The duration, when and how intense the sessions are, dehydration, and a drastic fall in their blood sugar, all needs careful monitoring.

Dr Kenneth Gardner is an exercise physiologist at Holiday Hills Research Center; email: