Diabetes is a disease that occurs when one's blood glucose (sugar) levels are too high. Consistently elevated blood sugar levels may lead to further health complications such as kidney problems or cancer. One study in particular showed that exercise helps enhance glycemic control, insulin signaling, and metabolic benefits for those with type 2 diabetes. Read our article to gain clarity on staying active and managing type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder that affects the way your body processes glucose. Multiple factors, including genetics, lifestyle, and environment, contribute to its development.
Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that helps glucose get into our cells to be used for energy. In a healthy individual; the hormone insulin helps regulate blood sugar levels.
Those with type 2 diabetes become resistant to insulin or don’t produce enough to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Glucose stays in the bloodstream and doesn’t reach the cells.
Type 2 diabetes is often associated with various health risks such as heart disease, stroke, or skin conditions. It’s important to note that not everyone will experience these complications.
Exercise has been scientifically proven to help manage type 2 diabetes by controlling blood sugar levels and improving insulin sensitivity, cardiovascular health, and overall well-being.
Exercise is extremely beneficial in managing type 2 diabetes. Not only can it balance blood sugar levels and improve cardiovascular health, it also aids weight management. Excess body weight can worsen insulin resistance, which can lead to further health complications, such increased inflammation and blood pressure. It’s also important to take proper nutrition, lifestyle choices, and mental well-being into account for optimal management. Read on to unlock important lifestyle hacks to help manage type 2 diabetes.
Yoga for type 2 diabetes
Yoga is an ancient holistic and spiritual practice. It combines physical postures, breathing techniques, meditation, and mindfulness to promote physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. The calming and mindful nature of yoga can be great for stress reduction. This is important for cortisol (stress hormone) management, which has direct effects on blood sugar levels.
Certain poses and movements in yoga enhance blood flow and circulation, which is beneficial for the cardiovascular system and heart health. Yoga promotes flexibility and helps reduce tightness and tension, which may encourage more physical activity day to day. One study in particular showed that yoga improved insulin sensitivity and the calming effects helped stabilize blood sugar levels.
Benefits of exercise for type 2 diabetes
Among the benefits of exercising for type 2 diabetes are:
- Improved insulin sensitivity. Regular exercise enhances the body’s sensitivity to insulin; therefore cells become more responsive to the hormone's effect, helping to reduce blood sugar levels.
- Cardiovascular health. Consistent exercise improves heart health by strengthening the heart muscle, lowering blood pressure and improving cholesterol.
- Stress reduction. Cortisol (stress hormone) can directly affect blood sugar levels, which may lead to cravings and blood sugar spikes. Physical activity can help reduce this.
- Weight management. Excess weight can worsen insulin resistance, negatively impacting blood glucose levels.
- Blood sugar control. Exercise helps lower blood sugar levels by increasing the uptake of glucose by muscle cells, helping prevent excessive spikes in blood sugar after meals.
Pilates for type 2 diabetes
Pilates is a mind-body, low impact form of exercise. It is based on six main principles breath, control, centering, concentration, precision, and flow. Pilates strengthens, stabilizes, and improves flexibility within the whole body. Pilates is a great choice for those with type 2 diabetes due to its strengthening effects.
Strong muscles are highly sensitive and responsive to the hormone insulin. This allows muscles to take glucose from the bloodstream more efficiently, helping stabilize blood sugar levels. One study in particular showed significantly lower levels of blood glucose in the Pilates group compared to the control group.
Pilates can improve posture and flexibility, which encourages good spine health. A healthy spine has direct effects on the central nervous system (the body's way of transporting signals around the body) by improving nerve function, blood flow, and communication. This can also reduce stress levels, helping to balance blood glucose levels.
Other possible workouts for type 2 diabetes
There are many other types of exercise that offer various benefits for those with type 2 diabetes:
- Walking. Is low impact, moderate intensity, and has some cardiovascular benefits.
- Running. It offers significantly more cardiovascular benefits due to heart rate elevation, which helps balance blood sugar levels and reduce insulin resistance.
- Swimming and aerobic dance. Offer a full-body workout, cardiovascular benefits, and fun social interaction, promoting overall well being.
- Cycling. Another great option for improving endurance. muscle strength, heart health, and overall fitness.
These exercise types can all aid weight management, which is key for keeping blood sugar levels in tact.
Safety first: things to consider
While everyone experiences type 2 diabetes in different ways, some general guidelines are helpful for consideration:
- Medical supervision. Regular check ups, blood sugar monitoring, and medication adjustments are essential.
- Blood sugar monitoring. Monitor blood sugar levels as recommended by a healthcare professional to help you gain understanding of your body’s reaction to things such as physical activity and food.
- Physical activity. Regular exercise is very beneficial for blood sugar management. Consult with a healthcare professional before you start.
- Hydration. Sometimes we can confuse hunger with thirst. Make sure you keep hydrated to avoid hunger spikes.
Nutrition. Eat a well-balanced diet and be mindful about consuming high amounts of refined carbohydrates, as they can spike blood sugar levels.
While exercise is vital and scientifically proven to help those with type 2 diabetes, it’s important to also take into account proper nutrition, lifestyle choices, and mental well-being. Taking a holistic approach to your type 2 diabetes will provide thorough management from all angles. Being mindful of your body's response to exercise, food, and stress will help you understand what does and doesn’t work well for your body. Instead of seeing type 2 diabetes as something bad, try seeing it as an inspiration to be in touch with your body, make healthy choices, and support your mental and physical health. This can feel empowering, instead of overwhelming.
Remember, there is no one size fits all; everyone has their own unique experience, and all are valid.
- BR J Clin Pharmacol. The UK Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS): clinical and therapeutic implications for type 2 diabetes.
- HHS Author Manuscripts. The essential role of exercise in the management of type 2 diabetes.
- Front Physiol. Effects of Pilates of Glucose and Lipids. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.
- Endocrinol Metab. Therapeutic Role of Yoga in Type 2 Diabetes.