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Prevent Type 2 Diabetes: Physical Activity

In the United States, 8.3% of the population has what we consider a costly disease—diabetes. Diabetes is both physically and financially costly. Physical complications include cardiovascular problems, such as heart disease and stroke, blindness, kidney disease, amputations, and nervous system disease. According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 1 in 10 health care dollars were spent directly on diabetes and its complications in the United States alone in 2012.

In honor of American Diabetes Month this November, we want to encourage everyone to ask themselves: Are there any changes I can make to prevent or delay diabetes?

Working-Out Works
How does exercise help? The concept of food being a fuel for our bodies is nothing new to most people. However, the body is selective of what type of fuel it uses depending on its activity level. When your body is at rest, it mostly relies on free fatty acids for energy release. However, as soon as you start to increase your activity, it uses a “premium” fuel source: a blend of fat, sugar (glucose), glucose stored in the muscles, and a small portion of amino acids. Thus, evidence shows that intense activity increases the body's use of glucose so it does not hang around in the blood.

Another fascinating effect of exercise is that produced by muscle contractions. Typically, when we think of how the body uses up blood glucose for energy, we think of insulin. Insulin is the hormone that helps the body use up glucose for energy. In Type 2 Diabetes, this hormone is either insufficiently produced or the body cannot use it correctly. Research shows that the muscle contractions produced during exercise help use up glucose without the help of insulin. Thus, exercise does not have to fully depend on insulin. With proper exercise, the body can use up blood glucose even if its insulin factory is closed or malfunctioned.

Get and Stay Active
The American Diabetes Association and The American College of Sports Medicine released a joint position statement that physical activity remains the key to both managing and preventing Type 2 Diabetes. Researchers found that the risk of getting Type 2 Diabetes in high-risk populations was lowered 58% because of regular, physical activity with modest weight loss.

Vary your workout sessions! A combination of different forms of exercise, such as aerobic and resistance training, is proven to be more effective than using one method alone. Explore the range of different intensity exercises, from moderate walking to vigorous workouts, to improve fitness and reduce your risk. The more assorted your workout regime is, the easier it will be to stick to it.

All the research studies that were examined prior to issuing the joint statement supported the current recommendation for prevention of Type 2 Diabetes: 2.5 hours per week of moderate aerobic activity, which comes to about 30 minutes per day for 5 days per week. Keeping your custom workout regime is only half the fun. Try one of EnergyFirst's post-workout protein shake recipes, such as this basic recipe, to give your muscles the protein they need.

Physical Activity Remains Key to Preventing and Managing Type 2 Diabetes Exercise and Type 2 Diabetes: the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Diabetes Association: joint position statement executive summary, by Sheri R. Colberg and colleagues. Diabetes Care 33:2692–2696, 2010