Working out boasts a bunch of benefits for the body and mind. It can improve strength, reduce stress, and increase feelings of self-worth. But wait, there’s more! Exercise could also reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes and improve disease symptoms like inflammation, weak joints, and poor vascular health.
Here’s the deal with diabetes and physical exercise. Psst. We also have fab fitness tips to keep your workouts safe and effective.
Maybe! While a single HIIT class isn’t a diabetes cure-all, a consistent workout regimen *might* reduce your risk. Here’s why.
Exercise lowers blood sugar
Science says that physical activity actually helps your body regulate blood sugar. It works like this:
- In the short-term, active muscles soak up glucose and use it to keep your energy up during a workout.
- In the longer-term, exercise can increase insulin efficiency for over 24 hours.
Chronic high blood sugar contributes to T2D, so keeping it in check is major #goalz.
Maintain a healthy weight
Your body size has nothing to do with your worth or attractiveness. You’re absolutely GORG no matter what the scale says. But it’s important to note that being overweight or having obesity can increase your risk of diabetes, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
That said, working out can help you maintain a healthy body weight, which can help prevent type 2 diabetes. In fact, experts have found that a 5 to 7 percent weight loss can slash the risk of T2D up to 58 percent. Wowza!
More muscle = better blood sugar
More research is needed to understand exactly why, but peeps with more muscle mass tend to have better blood sugar regulation — even if they also have high body fat.
In a small 2020 study of 132 folks with obesity or overweight, those with more muscle mass were also better at processing insulin. The link was particularly strong in young males.
Researchers from a 2013 study also found that strength training helps reduce the risk of T2D. But again, we need more science to back this up.
Physical activity helps blast visceral fat
Visceral fat can trigger insulin probs. This can set off a chain reaction that *might* lead to T2D. BTW, we’re not talking about a jiggly butt or curvy thighs. Visceral fat is the sneaky type that collects inside your torso, between organs, or within intestinal walls. Rude.
Burning calories through exercise can lead to general weight and fat loss. But a 2018 research review found that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is particularly good at burning visceral fat.
Moving your body regularly helps stabilize blood sugar, control weight gain, add muscle mass, and reduce visceral fat — all major factors in the development of T2D.
So, exercise might help prevent type 2 diabetes. Cool cool. But what if you already have it? Well, you’re still in luck! Working out can help improve preexisting symptoms. Here are the deets.
It crushes inflammation
There’s a well-established link between inflammation and T2D. Symptoms of chronic inflammation include:
- body pain
- mood swings
- weight changes
- tummy troubles constipation, diarrhea, or acid reflux
The good news is that researchers have noticed that physical exercise seems to dial down inflammatory responses. Fitness FTW!
It might combat neuropathy
Nerve pain (aka diabetic neuropathy) is a complication of chronic high blood sugar. It can cause symptoms that range from numbness in the feet to problems with heart or bladder function.
According to a 2013 study, exercise could lessen the damage. In the study, diabetes patients who participated in a 10-week exercise program had better nerve health and function at the end of the program. Just keep in mind, we need more proof to back these benefits.
It might prevent osteoporosis
Not-so-fun fact: Peeps with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis. Exercise can reduce your risk since daily movement helps strengthen joints, muscles, and bones.
FYI: Physical activity with added weight can help diminish the risk of osteoporosis, according to the NIH. Some great examples include bodyweight exercises or jogging with a weighted vest.
It improves vascular health
Erratic blood sugar is bad news for your blood vessels. So if you have T2D, it’s uber important you pay attention to your heart and vascular system. What better way to get your blood pumping than a little mo’ cardio?
Aerobics might improve diabetes symptoms like:
Can exercise reverse type 2 diabetes?
Not exactly. According to the NIH, significant weight loss and other lifestyle changes can help folks with T2D enter remission. But remember, remission doesn’t equal cured. It just means that your blood sugar levels can stay in a healthy range without the use of meds.
Also, everyone is different. Working out on its own might not be enough to send you into remission.
Everyone with T2D can benefit from more physical activity, according to the American Diabetes Association. Here are six simple tips for working out to prevent or improve diabetes:
- Make it a habit. Move your body daily, even if it’s just a walk around the block.
- Time it. Aim for at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week.
- Mix it up. Experts suggest a blend of cardio and strength training for peeps with T2D.
- Stay hydrated. Drink enough water on the daily, especially after a sweat sesh.
- Get creative. Squeeze in mini moments of activity throughout the day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park your car in the back of the lot. Do some stretching and strength training on your lunch break.
- Dial down the pre-workout carbs. Swap your sugary granola bar for fiber-rich nuts or protein-packed cottage cheese?
Good news! There aren’t any fitness no-no’s or restrictions just because you have T2D.
Take your pick of any activity that’s moderately intense (heart-rate elevation, commence!) and enjoyable to you. And if you really want to reap those health benefits, alternate between cardio and strength training.
Here are a few kickin’ cardio options:
And stellar strength training picks:
Type 2 diabetes can develop based on a mix of genetics and lifestyle factors. Physical exercise is one of the best, most effective ways to manage symptoms or reduce your risk of getting the disease.
Working out on the reg can help:
- regulate blood sugar
- lower bad cholesterol
- reduce inflammation
- strengthen your bones
- improve your vascular system
All these factors play into the development or management of type 2 diabetes — so they’re all great reasons to move it, move it!