So it’s the New Year - a clean slate to follow through with all the resolutions you made to improve your health and get your diabetes under control.
You know exercise is really good for you - but (it’s a big but) - how do you go about it? Do you go to a gym? The cost and environment can be really off putting for some people. The biggest reason given for not being active is time. A busy life full of commitments means that this may be the biggest barrier to building up a sweat. What if you could get all the protective and blood sugar lowering benefits of exercising in just 1 hour a week? What if this worked even if you have never exercised...
Before we get to that - what is exercise?
Exercise is anything that raises your heart rate, and I mean anything! Standing at your desk will make your body work more than sitting. Parking a little further away and walking more is exercise. Playing with children, cleaning the car, making the bed all count.
Science is showing us that more isn’t actually better - short, intense bursts can transform your diabetes and health. Exercise is the only proven way to slow and even reverse some of the effects of aging on the brain.
What’s so special about exercise?
Let's go back in time a little and think about the environment our body evolved to thrive in. It was all about movement and endurance. The reason that humans are the top of the tree is due to our physicality. We were able to outrun any prey and able to get away from predators too.
Our lives look very different today and we spend a lot of our time sitting, in fact the average person spends 13 hours a day sitting. Several studies have identified the link between inactivity and mortality. The more time spent sitting the higher the risk of dying from any cause.
How does activity drop blood sugars and protect you?
Type 2 diabetes is actually a disease of insulin resistance. The pancreas is still making as much insulin as it can but the receptors are blocked up and not getting the message and so don’t respond. The pancreas will make even more insulin to force the message through.
Here’s where the magic happens - exercise create more insulin receptors. This means the message gets through and blood sugar drops and the body becomes more sensitive to insulin. High levels of circulating insulin are linked to cancers, heart disease and strokes so a little burst of exercise is a massive boost of protection for the body.
Exercise also protects the cardiovascular system by reducing strain on the heart, reducing blood pressure and reduces the fatty deposits in the arteries that contribute to heart disease.
This is particularly important as the big sting in the tail of diabetes is heart disease, according to the American Heart Association:
“The following statistics speak loud and clear that there is a strong correlation between cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes.
- At least 68 percent of people age 65 or older with diabetes die from some form of heart disease; and 16% die of stroke.
- Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or a stroke than adults without diabetes.
- The American Heart Association considers diabetes to be one of the seven major controllable risk factors for cardiovascular disease.”
What is the best form of exercise for Diabetics?
Researchers are starting to uncover the real story and the news is especially good if you are pushed for time or really don’t like exercise at all. Short bursts are the answer.This type of exercise is called High Intensity Interval Training or HIT for short. It is more effective than traditional aerobic exercising.
Resistance exercising is also a form of HIT - lifting weights (or your own body weight) involves shorts bursts of activity followed by rest.
Safety of HIT and Resistance Training
Some clinicians have questioned whether the sudden rise in blood pressure could be dangerous for some patients, especially older people or people with existing heart disease. Researchers have found no evidence that this is the case at all. The study stated “Therefore, moderate- to high-intensity resistance training was found to be safe even in men at significant risk of cardiac events.”
Health comes first so always talk to your physician before making big changes to the level of exercise you do.
How do you HIT?
HIT is short burst of activity followed by a rest.
The studies have used various combinations, the one that seems to be most effective is 6 x 1min bursts with a minute to recover in between.
It looks like this:
1 min on an exercise bike - going as hard as you can for the 60 seconds.
1 min recovering and relaxing
Repeat 6 times.
Repeat the session 3 times per week.
The key to this type of exercise is that it is totally customisable. If you haven’t done any exercise, then your ‘all out’ will be right for you and will improve quickly.
Age is no barrier to this type of exercising - studies have shown great effects with improved health markers in the elderly and unfit. The time of the interval can be reduced to 20 seconds, working up to the full 60 seconds as the body gets fitter.
You don’t need to have an exercycle, there are many exercises you can replace it with:
You don’t need loads of time, gyms or fancy equipment to get your body moving. Just a few minutes a week will give you the protective and glucose lowering benefits. Now is the perfect time to get started. Are you ready?