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Leveraging exercise as a diabetes management tool: A guide for health professionals

Leveraging exercise as a diabetes management tool: A guide for health professionals

By Hayden Kelly, Accredited Exercise Physiologist 

As health professionals, we are constantly seeking effective strategies to assist our clients in managing chronic conditions such as diabetes. While medications and dietary interventions play crucial roles, the power of exercise should not be overlooked. Incorporating regular physical activity into diabetes management plans can yield significant benefits and improve overall health outcomes for our clients.

Benefits of exercise

Exercise serves as a cornerstone in diabetes management by positively influencing blood glucose levels, insulin sensitivity, weight management, and cardiovascular health. When individuals engage in physical activity, their muscles become more insulin sensitive, allowing for better glucose uptake from the bloodstream. This helps to regulate blood glucose levels and reduce the reliance on exogenous insulin or other diabetes medications.

Moreover, exercise promotes weight loss and weight maintenance, which are critical for managing type 2 diabetes, as excess weight contributes to insulin resistance. By incorporating regular exercise into their routine, individuals can achieve and maintain a healthy weight, help keep glucose levels in their target range, and reduce the risk of complications associated with diabetes.

Cardiovascular health is another crucial aspect of diabetes management, as individuals with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing heart disease. Exercise plays a pivotal role in improving cardiovascular fitness, lowering blood pressure, and reducing cholesterol levels, thereby mitigating the risk of cardiovascular complications.

A tailored approach

As health professionals, it’s essential to tailor exercise recommendations to meet the individual needs and preferences of our clients. Encourage a combination of aerobic exercises, such as walking, cycling, or swimming, with strength training activities to enhance muscle mass and metabolic rate. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, supplemented with two or more days of strength training activities.

Emphasise the importance of consistency and gradual progression to prevent injury and ensure long-term adherence. Encourage your clients to find activities they enjoy and incorporate them into their daily routine to make exercise a sustainable habit.

Additionally, closely monitor your clients’ blood glucose levels, especially before and after exercise, to prevent hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia. Adjust medication dosages and carbohydrate intake accordingly, particularly for those using insulin or other glucose-lowering medications.

In conclusion, exercise is a potent tool in diabetes management, offering a myriad of benefits. As health professionals, we must educate and empower our clients to embrace physical activity as an integral part of their diabetes management plan. By doing so, we can help them achieve better health outcomes and improve their overall quality of life.