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  • Writer's pictureGregory D. Hamilton

Diabetes and Exercise


Exercise Helps Prevent, Treat Diabetes


Fifteen years ago, Alan Rosenthal was a fit 60-year-old who had just returned from a bicycle trip through France.


Then a blood test revealed type 2 diabetes.


His doctor gave him a three-day course on diet, exercise, and self-care. The doctor also recommended a local trainer. And even though Alan knew his way around a gym, he adopted a new perspective and learned workouts to keep him healthy.


“My goals were different when I was younger,” says Alan, who enjoys an active lifestyle with his husband, 78, who is not diabetic. “Our social life revolves around meals and eating, so there are challenges. But as time wears on, we’ve adjusted how we eat and exercise.”


November is American Diabetes Month, a great time to highlight the link between exercise, diet, and the disease, including for people over age 50.


Weight Is a Big Factor


The American Diabetes Association says 30 million Americans have diabetes, the seventh leading cause of death. It can affect every decision, including what to eat, and requires steady attention. Weight is a major factor. Exercise and proper eating are important in preventing and managing diabetes.


The ADA says we can take steps to prevent type 2, the most common form. “Stay at a healthy weight, eat well, and be active. With these steps, you can stay healthier longer and lower your risk of diabetes.”


The ADA defines type 2 diabetes as “characterized by high blood glucose levels caused by either a lack of insulin or the body's inability to use insulin efficiently. Type 2 diabetes develops most often in middle-aged and older adults but can appear in young people.”


Among Americans 65 and older, 25.2 percent or 12 million people have diabetes, the ADA says.



How Exercise Helps

Physical activity:


• Helps lower blood glucose, blood pressure, HDL cholesterol and triglycerides

• Lowers risk for pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke

• Relieves stress

• Strengthens the heart, muscles, and bones

• Improves blood circulation and tones muscles

• Improves flexibility


And no, you are not too old to start.


“Even if you have never exercised before, you can find ways to add physical activity to your day,” the ADA says. “Even if your activities aren't strenuous, you will still get health benefits.”


Regular physical activity is essential for everyone, but it is especially important for people with diabetes and those at risk for it, the ADA says. “Get active and stay active by doing things you enjoy, from gardening to playing tennis to walking with friends.”

For Alan, that means working out with a trainer twice a week. He also enjoys biking, swimming, and walking.


Alan is determined to focus on all aspects of managing his illness – exercise, diet, checking his blood sugar, and speaking with his doctor.


“I realize the importance of exercise in controlling my blood sugar,” Alan says. “As I look at my diabetes, the way I eat and the way I exercise… they go hand in hand.”

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