FYI Living – by Leigh Reason
When it comes to diabetes, most people focus on diet, especially when a cookbook guru like Paula Deen gets diagnosed with the disease. But while diet is a key component of diabetes prevention and treatment, something very important is often overlooked: exercise. 

Lack of physical fitness often leads to obesity and insulin resistance, which can in turn put a person at risk for type 2 diabetes. With the estimated 400 million obese people on the planet, it’s easy to see how this problem needs addressing – and fast.

It seems that weight-bearing exercises are very important to diabetes risk reduction. Recent research shows that people with lower muscle mass on their bodies have increased risk of developing insulin resistance, and in turn getting diabetes.  This stands to reason since the muscle plays an important role in glucose breakdown, thus affecting the body’s ability to manage blood glucose level. This doesn’t mean you have to bench press 220 pounds to stave off diabetes; simply adding push-ups or chin-ups to your routine can strengthen your muscles significantly.

But it’s not just about pumping iron; it’s also about getting moving, period. A recent review published in the Journal of Applied Physiology looked at healthy men whose physical activity was purposely reduced during a two-week period. The men were asked to keep their daily steps to below 1,500, where normally they walked at least 10,000 steps. During those 14 days, insulin resistance increased and more fat deposits developed around the abdomen, which is also known as adiposity. Another study out of Taiwan found that type 2 diabetes patients who did three months of tai chi with professional trainers, went down two points in their BMIs and saw lower blood cholesterol numbers. They also saw lower triglycerides in their blood.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends healthy adults get 150 minutes of moderate exercise plus muscle-strengthening exercises two days per week. The recommendations shift depending on intensity of activity. It’s not news that exercise is important to a healthy lifestyle, but now it may be vital to the prevention of chronic diseases.  Striving to increase your muscle mass and getting at least two-and-a-half hours of exercise per week is a good idea.

Sounds simple, right? Well of course it’s like telling a dieter to eat celery rather than chocolate: easier said than done. Motivation is often the problem when it comes to starting and sticking with an exercise program. Even with the conclusive and prolific amount of information about the importance of exercise, pulling on those sneakers when the couch is calling can be tough. 

Some ways to help? Find a workout buddy. Meeting a friend regularly for a hike or spin class will increase your chances of going. Keep an exercise journal to track progress and goals. As you set and reach goals, it’s very gratifying to see it all in black-and-white in front of you. And once you actually reach those goals, reward yourself. Rather than make the treats food-related, consider other perks like that hot pair of jeans you’ve been pining for.

A healthy dose of exercise can also improve your heart health and mental health, in addition to staving off insulin resistance. So, as the First Lady says, “Let’s move!"

How does exercise affect your diabetes? What tips do you have for getting motivated to exercise? Share your experiences in the comments below and check out this related discussion thread.