Exercise: The Diabetes Secret Weapon | Reader's Digest

Exercise: The Diabetes Secret Weapon

If you take hold of exercise and diet, you can control your diabetes and improve your whole life.

from Stopping Diabetes in Its Tracks

Burns fat. What happens when muscles tap out the glucose in the liver and blood? After about 30 minutes of continuous exercise, the body turns to fatty acids both in flabby storage sites throughout the body and in the blood. Using fat for energy helps clear the blood of harmful fats, such as LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. It also boosts “good” HDL cholesterol and helps trim abdominal fat, which is linked to a higher risk of diabetes and complications.

Shaves pounds. The more active you are, the more energy you use, and if you control your diet as well, you’ll end up with a calorie deficit that eventually tips the scales in a favorable direction. A bonus: Exercise also builds up your muscle mass, and since muscle burns energy faster than other types of tissue (especially fat) do, that means you’ll burn more calories all the time — even when you’re lounging in front of the TV.

Protects your heart. Exercise cuts your chances of having a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular problem linked with diabetes by helping to improve your risk profile. In one study, type 2 patients who took part in an aerobic-exercise program lasting only three months saw their triglyceride and HDL cholesterol levels improve by about 20 percent, along with a significant drop in blood pressure. And the benefits aren’t limited to those with type 2 diabetes. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found the risk of dying from cardiovascular illnesses to be three times higher among sedentary people with type 1 diabetes than among those who regularly burn about 2,000 calories a week through exercise.

Makes you feel good. This isn’t a minor point. Dealing with a chronic disease day after day can sometimes feel discouraging, stressful, or even depressing. Exercise helps by producing feelgood chemicals in the brain that can boost your mood, relieve stress, and alleviate the blues. It also does wonders for your sense of confidence and self-esteem. When you finish a workout, you’re justified in feeling that you’ve accomplished something important. You might feel that if you can do this, maybe you really can get your health under control. And you’d be right.

Makes you look better. It’s not the most important health benefit, but it sure is a strong motivator. Without a doubt, if your fitness improves, your appearance does, too. You lose flab and gain muscle, strength, and energy, which make you seem livelier, more capable, and maybe even younger. What’s not to like?