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  • Writer's pictureFarhad Nassiri Afshar

Exercise and Diabetes: A Powerful Prescription

Updated: Mar 26


Exercise plays a crucial role in combating diabetes, a condition characterized by the body's inability to produce or use insulin properly. Insulin is vital for helping cells absorb glucose from our blood, which is used for energy. When diabetes is uncontrolled, it can lead to serious health issues, making management of blood sugar levels essential. Here’s how exercise contributes to fighting, preventing, and managing diabetes, making it understandable and engaging for everyone.


Healthy fit couple running by beach demonstrating benefits of exercise

The Power of Physical Activity


Improves Insulin Sensitivity and Glycemic Control:

Regular physical activity enhances insulin sensitivity. This means that the cells in your body can use the available insulin more effectively to absorb glucose from your bloodstream, leading to improved blood sugar control. For those with diabetes, sticking to an exercise program can lower blood sugar levels significantly, sometimes to levels comparable with diabetes medications. Think of your muscles as sponges that soak up sugar. Exercise increases the number of "sugar receptors" on muscle cells, allowing them to absorb more glucose, lowering blood sugar levels.


Increase Muscle Mass and Glucose Utilization:

Exercise, especially resistance training (like weight lifting or bodyweight exercises), helps build and maintain muscle mass. More muscle mass improves blood sugar control because muscles use glucose from the blood for energy, effectively lowering blood sugar levels.

Improving Muscle Composition and Mitochondrial Function

Regular exercise also promotes changes in muscle composition, leading to an increase in mitochondrial density and enzyme activity. Mitochondria are the powerhouses of cells, responsible for converting glucose into energy. By enhancing mitochondrial function, exercise enables muscles to utilize glucose more efficiently, reducing the burden on insulin production and improving overall metabolic health


Reduces Abdominal Fat and Triglycerides:

Accumulation of abdominal fat is a risk factor for developing diabetes. Physical activity, including high-intensity interval training (HIIT), not only helps reduce abdominal fat but also lowers blood triglyceride levels. Lower triglycerides are associated with a decreased risk of diabetes and help regulate blood sugar levels


Diabetes Management Through Exercise

Lifestyle Integration


To harness these benefits, integrating exercise into one's lifestyle is key. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise weekly, averaging about 30 minutes five days a week. This can include brisk walking, cycling, swimming, or resistance training. The idea is to find a form of exercise you enjoy, making it easier to stick to a routine.


A Multi-faceted Approach


While exercise is a cornerstone in managing diabetes, it should be part of a broader approach that includes monitoring blood glucose levels, managing diet (notably through reduced carbohydrate intake to enhance insulin sensitivity), and keeping an eye on other risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol.


Engaging the Community


Understanding the importance of exercise in managing diabetes empowers individuals to take active steps towards their health. Communities and healthcare providers can play a significant role by encouraging physical activity through programs and resources tailored to diverse needs and preferences, making exercise an accessible and enjoyable part of daily life.

Sneakers, a jump rope, a glucometer, and an apple showcase the healthy lifestyle's effect on decreasing blood sugar.

Beyond Blood Sugar: The Bonus Benefits of Exercise

The benefits of exercise for diabetes extend far beyond just blood sugar control. Here are some additional perks:

Weight Management: 

Exercise helps you burn calories and maintain a healthy weight, a crucial factor in managing diabetes.

Heart Health Boost: 

Physical activity improves your cardiovascular health, reducing the risk of heart disease, a common complication of diabetes.

Overall Well-being: 

Exercise can elevate your mood, improve sleep quality, and increase energy levels, all of which contribute to better overall well-being.

Getting Started: A Fitness Plan for Diabetes Management

The good news is that even small amounts of exercise can make a big difference. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.

  • Break it down: If 30 minutes seems daunting, start with 10-minute increments and gradually increase the duration.

  • Find activities you enjoy: From dancing to gardening, choose activities that fit your interests and keep you motivated.

  • Consult your doctor before starting a new exercise routine, especially if you have any existing health conditions.

Remember, consistency is key. By incorporating regular physical activity into your life, you're not just moving your body, You are taking control of your health and winning the battle against diabetes. So lace up your shoes, step out the door, and get moving towards a healthier you!

Image showing how Insulin facilitates the entrance of glucose into cells.


In summary, exercise is a powerful tool against diabetes, working through multiple mechanisms to improve health and prevent complications. Whether you're living with diabetes or looking to prevent it, incorporating regular physical activity into your routine can offer significant benefits for your overall well-being.

Medical Disclaimer

This content is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for the medical advice of a physician. Consult your doctor before starting any new exercise regimen, especially if you have existing health conditions.

Consultation at Irys Medical Clinic

Before embarking on any exercise program, especially if aiming to manage or prevent diabetes, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional. Schedule a visit at Irys Medical Clinic for personalized advice and a safe exercise plan tailored to your health needs.

This is a professional portrait of Dr. Farhad Nassiri Afshar, an Internal Medicine Physician, showcasing his commitment to patient care at Irys Medical Clinic in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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1 Comment

Mar 30

Thanks for the informative health articles you share every week!

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