Diabetes – How physical activity can help prevent and manage the condition

There are currently 3.9 million people living with diabetes in the UK. That’s more than one in 16 people who have diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes.

By 2025, it’s estimated there will be five million people living with diabetes in the UK.

In this blog post, former diabetic clinic nurse and now Studio instructor, Vicki Smith, tells us a bit more about the condition, what it involves, the causes and the importance of taking action sooner, rather than later.

What is diabetes?

 Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person’s blood sugar level to become too high. There are two types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 – when people have a complete lack of insulin in their body due to the immune system attacking and destroying the cells that produce insulin.
  • Type 2 – occurs when people don’t produce enough insulin in their body or their body can’t use the insulin that their body produces. Type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1. In the UK, around 90% of all adults with diabetes have type 2 (NHS).

Insulin is a hormone that’s needed by the body to deal with sugars from our food. More importantly, it controls our blood sugar. When our blood sugars are out of control, even for a short space of time, the side effects of diabetes can occur.

What causes diabetes?

If you have diabetes, this means your body is unable to break down glucose into energy. This is because there’s either not enough insulin to move the glucose, or the insulin produced doesn’t work properly.

The cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown however, there are multiple causes for type 2 diabetes. While genetic make-up does play a small part in type 2 diabetes, poor lifestyle choices are increasingly to blame for many type 2 diagnoses.

For instance, according to research commissioned by Diabetes UK and Bupa, the vast majority of people (63%) are unaware that having a large waist can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes UK defines a large waist as 31.5 inches or over for women and 35 inches and over for men.

What action can people take?

It’s extremely important for diabetes to be diagnosed by a doctor as early as possible because it will get progressively worse if left untreated. What’s more, many people don’t realise they have the condition until they go on to develop full blown type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes can develop rapidly over weeks, or even days. While many people have type 2 diabetes for years without realising because the early symptoms tend to be general, such as:

  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Urinating more frequently than usual, particularly at night
  • Feeling very tired
  • Weight loss and loss of muscle bulk
  • Cuts or wounds that heal slowly
  • Blurred vision (caused by the lens of the eye becoming dry)

However, the risk of developing diabetes can be greatly reduced by making small changes to your diet, such as eating less processed food, and becoming more active.

What type of physical activity should I be doing?

You don’t have to launch straight into a full-on training programme, you can start small with your physical activity. For example, you can take the stairs instead of the lift and up your pace to more of a brisk walk, wherever possible. (For best practice advice on easily adding exercise into your lifestyle read our blog, ’10 practical tips for (easily) integrating regular exercise into your daily routine.’).Whether you’re aged 19 to 64, it’s important to ensure you incorporate daily activity and aerobic and strength training into your lifestyle. Ideally, you want to be doing 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (such as fast walking or low impact exercise classes) plus strength exercise using your major muscles, two or more days a week.

No matter what you choose to do, any change (no matter how large or small) will help significantly reduce the risk of diabetes and improve the control of diabetes. It’s an important step, especially given the fact that many of us don’t know we’re at risk of diabetes, which is all the more reason to protect yourself now.

If you have any queries, want to find out more, or would like some expert advice on incorporating physical activity into your lifestyle to prevent or manage diabetes, please call us on 07890 978531 or email us at nicolacarless@aol.com