Can exercise prevent Diabetes?
First, I think it is important to outline what is Diabetes.
What is type 2 Diabetes?
Diabetes is a metabolic disease characterized by high levels of sugar in the blood. During digestion food is broken down into glucose. Glucose is the energy source of our cells. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas and is the key that opens the cell door for glucose to enter and nourish the cells. As more glucose (sugars) enters the body, more insulin is produced. Diabetes leads to something called insulin resistance when insulin no longer has the key to the cells and, hence, the cells can no longer be nourished by glucose. Consequently, glucose levels continue to rise in the blood. High levels of glucose in the blood are toxic and can cause blood vessel damage, nerve damage, heart disease and vision problems.
How can exercise prevent or treat Diabetes?
When we exercise, glycogen provides the bulk of our energy needs. When glycogen is depleted, the body starts to utilize blood glucose and free fatty acids as energy sources, thus reducing levels of glucose in the blood. Furthermore, as our muscles contract during exercise, the insulin resistance associated with diabetes is bypassed and the muscles can directly nourish glucose, reducing overall blood glucose levels. When this muscular pathway of glucose nourishment is stimulated and there is less glucose in the blood, the normal insulin pathway can function once again, and overall insulin resistance is decreased. These benefits can last for up to 72 hours post-exercise.
What is the best form of exercise to prevent and treat type 2 Diabetes?
All exercise modalities, whether they are aerobic (running, swimming, cycling) or resistance (weight training, calisthenics) are great for the body and can help treat and prevent diabetes. Nevertheless, it has been established through numerous studies that a combination of both aerobic and resistance exercise is the most effective. Exercise should be performed 3-4 times a week with no more than 2 days between exercise sessions. Exercise should be performed at a moderate intensity for 150 minutes per week.
Whenever undertaking an exercise routine (especially those with preexisting conditions) it is best to seek the advice of a medical professional.