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Diabetes and Exercise: Can Exercise Cure Diabetes?

Updated on February 25, 2014

Positive Correlation of Exercise and Happiness

The Positive Relationship of Diabetes and Exercise

Various studies have shown that there is a positive correlation between exercise and a person’s overall health which includes their physical and mental state. When you exercise your body releases chemicals known as endorphins that interact with receptors in the brain, reducing pain and also triggering a positive feeling in the body.

Exercising regularly has been show to reduce stress, war off anxiety and depression, boost self esteem and improve sleep. A regular exercise schedule also increases energy levels, strengthens the heart, lowers blood pressure, reduces body fat and strengthens and builds bones.

For people with diabetes, exercising is a great tool to help manage their disease, promoting positive feelings and health. As a diabetic, exercising allows you to be in tune with your body.

One question that many people ask is can diabetes be cured by exercise? Unfortunately the answer is no as there is no known cure for diabetes, however having a scheduled exercise routine is one way to manage the disease as well as maintaining a normal and healthy life. Besides the use of insulin, one major factor to managing diabetes is exercise as it can play a vital role in keeping the disease under control.

Hours Spent Exercising

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Exercising Lowers Blood-Glucose Levels

When you exercise, the muscles absorb glucose for energy causing a decrease in the body’s blood glucose levels. This reduction in blood glucose acts as a natural treatment for diabetes, however it is important to note that too much exercise can also be dangerous.

Strenuous activities may cause a person to experience a drop in blood glucose which has very serious side affects such has fainting or having seizures so it is very important to monitor blood glucose levels to treat hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) when it does occur during exercise. When exercising, it is important to frequently check blood glucose levels before, during and after an exercise session to determine how different types of activity have an affect on your body.

Exercise Lowers the Chances of Cardiovascular Disease

Various studies have shown that by exercising and being physically active, a positive impact can occur in the body by reducing blood pressure, cholesterol and glycemia. The reduction of these three elements significantly reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease which is one of the leading causes of death for many diabetic patients.

Diabetes is a major cause of heart disease and stroke. Diabetes is also the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. Studies from the National Institute of Health (NIH) state the following regarding complications caused by diabetes in the United States:

  • In 2004, heart disease was noted on 68 percent of diabetes-related death certificates of people ages 65 or older.
  • In 2004, stroke was noted on 16 percent of diabetes-related death certificates of people ages 65 or older.
  • Adults with diabetes have heart disease death rates about 2 to 4 times higher than adults without diabetes
  • The risk of stroke is 2 to 4 times higher among people with diabetes.
  • In 2005-2008, of adults ages 20 years or older with diabetes, 67 percent had blood pressure greater than or equal to 140/90 mmHg.

Although exercise cannot actually cure diabetes, it can definitely prevent live threatening symptoms that are typically found in diabetics and have been shown to be causing factors of death.

Blood Pressure Readings

American Heart Association's recommendation for healthy blood pressure
American Heart Association's recommendation for healthy blood pressure

Exercise Helps with Weight Loss

By exercising, you not only improve your emotional state but also your physical health. Being active also helps to reduce body fat which is important for individuals that suffer from type 2 diabetes in which the body becomes resistant to insulin. Studies have shown that weight loss has helped to increase insulin sensitivity thus improving the efficiency of insulin production in the body.

The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) which is a large prevention study of people at high risk for diabetes, showed in a study that losing weight and increasing physical activity greatly reduced the development of type 2 diabetes by 58 percent during a 3 year period. An even greater reduction of type 2 diabetes of 71 percent was found among adults ages 60 or older.

For people with type 2 diabetes, reversing problems caused by insulin sensitivity may be the closest solution in regards to a cure. Many overweight people that were originally diagnosed with type 2 diabetes no longer experience diabetic symptoms after they have shed excess weight.

Exercise Provides an Improved Sense of Well Being

Not only does exercise provide a physical benefit of fitness and mitigation of various cardiovascular diseases but it also offers psychological benefits. The psychological benefits of exercise have been shown to have a profound impact on diabetes by creating an increasingly positive outlook of the disease, accompanied with a desire to work toward a better physical, mental and emotional state.

This positive outlook results in a stronger commitment to participating in the daily habits that are necessary to control diabetes and managing its symptoms. This new outlook also encourages patients to improve their eating habits, feel healthier and improve their overall lifestyle. Albeit exercise is not a cure for diabetes, it can definitely bring an improved outlook on life which can help to manage the disease.

Diabetics Can Benefit from a Variety of Exercises

Exercise can be any type of activity that improves cardiovascular health. Some types of activities that are ideal for diabetic include walking, swimming, cycling, jogging or dancing. Walking is recommended more than any other exercise because it is not very strenuous and can be performed for a longer duration without exhausting the patient.

Strength training is also great for those suffering from diabetes because it will increase fat burning and the building of lean muscle mass which is necessary for controlling insulin sensitivity.

Other forms of exercise include yoga, pilates, tai chi, qi gong and other types of mind/body/spirit disciplines that will help in the management of diabetes.

Dancing as Exercise - Pharrel Williams - Happy

Go Exercise!

For anyone posing the question if exercise can cure diabetes, the simple answer is no. But it is important to understand that exercise can help to manage the disease which can lead to a long and healthy life. Management of the disease can lead to the elimination of many symptoms associated with diabetes which is as close to a cure that anyone has discovered.

Diabetics should begin incorporating exercise into their lifestyle as soon as possible by determining which exercise regimen will offer them the most enjoyment and benefits in the safest way possible. Before starting any new exercise regimen, consult a physician. Also be sure to monitor your blood sugar levels before and after exercising to determine when it is safe to exercise without putting yourself in danger.


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