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  • Lauren McDougall

Type 1 Diabetes.. why exercise is so important

Given it's National Diabetes week (July 8th-14th) let's unpack the importance of an active lifestyle for Type 1 Diabetes.


Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune condition, and usually begins in childhood and adolescence (although it can be later). One of the biggest myths is that because insulin is being used, lifestyle changes aren't also absolutely vital.


What's so good about exercise??

Although exercise can’t reverse the changes to the cells in the pancreas causing the decreased insulin production, exercise will promote the use of the glucose that stored in the body. This makes room for the glucose circulating in the blood to be removed, and taken up by the muscles to store for later.

This helps regulate blood sugar levels for hours after exercise. Pretty cool huh!

What's more, insulin isn't needed for muscles to use circulating glucose.


But that's not all

Diabetes is a serious condition. Exercise is very important as it helps to reduce the negative effects of diabetes, which can contribute to other chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, kidney damage, and eye damage. To put it simply, high blood sugar levels seen with diabetes place stress on the body and create an inflammatory process. This inflammatory process, over time, causes damage to nerves, blood vessels etc.


Exercise is particularly important for individuals with Type 1 Diabetes.

Exercise is very important for all forms of diabetes for the same reasons - reduce and control blood sugar levels.


Individuals with T1D however, are exposed to high blood sugar levels for longer - i.e they develop the condition younger and it sticks around for life. This means overall, their bodies are at greater risk of prolonged exposure to oxidative stress (the process contributing to the inflammation).

As their bodies are unable to self-regulate insulin production to accommodate changing sugar levels, their blood sugar is constantly up and down creating spikes in sugar levels. Meaning they often have greater exposure to periods of high blood sugar, which further increases that inflammatory process.


With exercise as an adjunct therapy to external insulin, we see better regulation of blood sugar levels, and less of the spikes as the body is able to regulate sugar levels better between insulin doses. This keeps inflammation down, reducing the likelihood of damage as a result.


Why an Accredited Exercise Physiologist should be your go-to!

As exercise plays a similar role to insulin, some considerations are needed to ensure safe physical activity (to ensure blood sugar levels stay in a safe range). For example, the timing of insulin withexercise, the location of the insulin injection prior to exercise etc.


Guidance of an Accredited Exercise Physiologist is important to ensure you’re exercising right for your diabetes condition and can deliver a safe, expertly prescribed exercise program tailored to individual requirements.