Living with diabetes blog

Keep muscles moving to help with diabetes

By Sara J. Carlson, R.N., C.D.E. September 13, 2016

"Time" magazine's Sept. 12/19 issue includes an interesting article titled "The New Science of Exercise".

The article cites a compelling study published in the March 8, 2011, issue of "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America."

Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, a genetic metabolic neurologist at McMaster University in Ontario, and a team of scientists studied mice with a terrible genetic disease that caused them to age prematurely.

Over the course of five months, half of the mice were sedentary. The other half were coaxed to run three times a week on a miniature treadmill. By the end of the study, the sedentary mice were barely hanging on. The fur that had yet to fall out had grown coarse and gray, muscles shriveled, hearts weakened, and skin thinned — even the mice's hearing got worse.

But the group of mice that exercised, genetically compromised though they were, was nearly indistinguishable from healthy mice. Their coats were sleek and black; they ran around their cages, they could even reproduce.

Tarnopolsky sees something similar happen in his ill patients. He says exercise is the most effective therapy available to them.

The article goes on to list some of the things that happen to a body in motion:

  • The body is better able to burn fat for energy instead of carbs, causing fat cells to shrink.
  • Exercise may protect telomeres, the tiny caps on the ends of chromosomes. This appears to slow the aging of cells.
  • Increased blood flow to the brain creates new blood vessels. Exercise also triggers the release of chemicals that dull pain and lighten mood.
  • Moving quickly makes the heart pump more blood to the body's tissues, including the muscles. That extra oxygen helps muscles better withstand fatigue.
  • Repeated weight-bearing contractions make muscles grow and put pressure on the bones, increasing their density.

With respect to diabetes, muscles in motion use more glucose thus lowering the glucose in the blood stream. In addition, exercise reduces insulin resistance allowing the body to use insulin more efficiently.

Follow these tips to begin a regular exercise program:

  • If you haven't been physically active in the past, take small steps as you begin to change your habits. This may mean starting with 5 minutes of activity per day.
  • Your goal is to exercise for a total of 30-60 minutes each day. You can exercise for shorter periods several times per day.
  • General guidelines are to do cardiovascular exercise for 30 minutes, 5 days per week and do strength training exercise 2 days per week.
  • Gradually increase the time you exercise each week.
  • Slowly increase the amount of effort you put into each workout after you get to the desired duration and frequency of your exercise routine.

Any activity or exercise you can add to your daily routine will help improve your health.

Let's hear it for muscles in motion.

Sept. 13, 2016