World Diabetes Day: physical activity as prevention and treatment

Not everyone knows that 14 November is World Diabetes Day, the world's largest diabetes awareness campaign, reaching a global audience of over 1 billion people in more than 160 countries.

This day was established in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and the World Health Organization (WHO), which chose 14 November because it marks the anniversary of Sir Frederick Banting’s birth, who is credited with the discovery of insulin along with Charles Best in 1922.

In addition to being extremely common, diabetes is also often difficult to detect and wrongly attributed only to older people. On the contrary, adolescents and young adults (35-40 years old) can also contract the disease, often in connection with factors such as obesity and physical inactivity.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus, commonly known as just diabetes, is a group of metabolic disorders characterized by a high blood sugar level over a prolonged period of time. Diabetes is due to either the cells of the body not responding properly to the insulin produced or the pancreas not producing enough insulin, a hormone which, by stimulating the uptake of glucose into muscle and fat cells, reduces its concentration in the blood.

The most well-known and frequent types of this disease are type 1 and type 2 diabetes, which differ both in their causes and in the treatments they require.
Type 1 diabetes occurs mainly in pre-school age and puberty, its onset is rapid and the risk factors are not yet known for sure.
Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is currently the most common form of diabetes. It usually begins in adulthood, with a slower onset than type 1 diabetes, and established risk factors include overweight/obesity, unbalanced diet, sedentary lifestyle, hypertension, high blood cholesterol and/or triglyceride levels, family history.

As the lack of physical exercise is one of the main risk factors for this disease, it is essential to keep active on a daily basis, avoiding a sedentary lifestyle as much as possible.
In fact, all the most recent studies on diabetes have shown that physical activity is crucial not only to prevent the disease, but also to keep it under control and make it easier to manage in cases where it has already been diagnosed.

As stated by the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS), there is evidence of a preventive effect of moderate or vigorous but constant physical activity, with a 30% decrease in the risk of diabetes onset in active subjects compared to sedentary ones.
Furthermore, it was shown that regular exercise in subjects with diabetes, as well as in the overall population, is associated with an increased life expectancy, reduced cardiovascular risk factors and improved metabolic control.
Consequently, if it’s well structured and prescribed on the specific needs of the person, exercise can be an incredible resource and it’s considered a true pillar of diabetes therapy.

Exercise, an important medicine against diabetes

It is now well established that a healthy diet and a balanced lifestyle can play a crucial role in controlling diabetes, and in particular one of its most common forms, type 2 diabetes.
Specifically, regular physical activity plays a key role in the prevention and treatment of this disease. Not only does exercise help combat stress, but it also has beneficial effects on metabolism: it improves insulin sensitivity, reduces triglyceride and bad cholesterol levels in favour of good cholesterol, influences blood pressure control and prevents cardiovascular diseases.

Exercise programmes for people with type 2 diabetes should include aerobic exercise, especially at moderate intensity and on a regular basis, as it is a powerful therapeutic means of lowering blood sugar levels by increasing muscle glucose consumption.

The WHO recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (50-70% of maximum heart rate) and/or at least 90 minutes per week of intense exercise (>70% of maximum heart rate). Exercise hours should be distributed over at least 3 days per week and no more than 2 consecutive days should go by without activity.

In recent years, a considerable number of scientific studies have shown that strength training also plays an important role in type 2 diabetes. Muscle contraction, in fact, can promote the decrease of the blood sugar that is stored in the muscles.

Strength training should be practiced at least twice a week activating the most important muscle groups. As loads, you can use weights and barbells, strength machines and also the weight of your own body.

Treadmill training to combat diabetes

Even on the busiest days, it would be good to devote some time to exercise and integrate it into your daily routine.
If you’re short of time, you could increase the number of days you exercise and reduce the duration of your workout, for example by choosing 20 or 30-minute sessions from the wide range of on-demand workouts available on MyRun, Technogym's compact and silent home treadmill.

Discover Technogym MyRun

If you’ve got enough time, in addition to longer sessions you could choose to have long run or walk, immersing yourself in virtual nature trails or cities around the world.
A great way to stay active with MyRun is also to set different goals for different days of the week, such as running a specific distance or burning a precise amount of calories, building a truly customized workout based on your personal needs and daily goals.

By doing this, you will be able to exercise everyday and enjoy all the benefits of physical exercise, an effective means that not only helps reduce the occurrence of diabetes and other diseases, but also has a positive impact on patients who suffer from it, helping them to fight it.

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