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Exercise for Diabetic Patients

Being active offers health benefits for everyone, but for people with diabetes, adhering to daily fitness goals is essential. Staying active can help to control the effects of diabetes on a day-to-day basis and has been shown to have positive effects on even the long-term complications associated with the disease.

Whether the body inherently cannot produce insulin or has become resistant to the insulin it can produce, the health effects patients will suffer are similar. Patients with diabetes consistently experience much higher risks of cardiovascular events, nerve damage, muscle wasting and poor bone density. The good news is that physical activity can help to considerably delay these effects. Both aerobic activity and muscle building exercises are greatly beneficial.

Effects of Aerobic Exercise
Studies show that patients who participate in aerobic exercise have substantially lower risks of developing common secondary conditions associated with diabetes, including those which are life threatening. That’s largely due to the effects aerobic exercise has on blood sugar: physical activity temporarily increases insulin sensitivity, improving the body's ability to take up glucose for energy. These blood sugar-decreasing effects can last for up for 24 hours, but with regular physical activity, patients will experience a variety of long-term effects.

Effects of Strength Exercise
Improved muscle strength contributes to better insulin sensitivity just like aerobic exercise. Again, this contributes positively to the body’s ability to use oxygen and other vital nutrients as efficiently as possible, decreasing dangerous exposure to elevated blood glucose. Additionally, acquiring more muscle mass also increases daily caloric burn, which reduces excess fat cells. In patients with type 2 diabetes, particularly, the reduction of excess fat around the abdomen has been shown to help considerably reduce neuropathy, organ failure and cardiovascular disease.

Effects on Bone Density
Exercise is directly linked to improved bone density, which is particularly important in patients with type 1 diabetes who are at a higher risk for complications associated with bone health. Each time a weight-bearing exercise such as walking or stair climbing is performed, bone growth is stimulated to provide better strength, flexibility and stability. Preventing additional bone loss decreases the risk of serious injury from falls or even everyday activities, something that's common in patients with type 1 diabetes.

Effects on Cardiovascular Events
CV events comprise the majority of deaths in diabetic patients, and high blood pressure is one of the major contributors. Individuals suffering from diabetes are at a significantly higher risk of cardiovascular disease than patients without diabetes. This includes heart failure, stroke, coronary heart disease, and hypertension. All of these can be significantly slowed with proper exercise and medical intervention.

Exercise alone can't reverse or prevent the effects of diabetes, but it can provide support to significantly improve the health, mobility and life span of an individual affected by the disease. Encouraging patients to stay committed to their daily exercise regimen should be part of a proper diabetic treatment plan.