The three cornerstones in the treatment of diabetes are food, medications, and activity. Of these three, activity is often a first choice for the person who has diabetes. Moving toward a more physically active life is generally inexpensive, convenient, and easy and usually produces great rewards in terms of blood glucose control and a general feeling of well-being.
Whenever you actively use a muscle, you burn both fatty acids and glucose. During and after periods of activity, your falling glucose level is sensed by the beta cells in your pancreas, and they relax their output of insulin.
This gives your beta cells a break from excessive insulin production. In addition, the lower insulin levels signal your liver to empty its glucose reserves (glycogen) into the blood to supply the muscles with needed energy.
As physical activity continues, the liver converts amino acids, lactic acid, and fats into glucose to supply the muscles. If the activity continues long enough, even the body's fat cells get in the game. They compensate for the reduced fatty acid levels in your blood by converting their stored triglycerides into fatty acids.
When all of these steps are considered, it's easy to see why using your muscles is the perfect treatment for diabetes. It lowers blood glucose, lowers fatty acid levels in your blood, and reduces the workload of your pancreas. And, unless you are on a medication that can cause hypoglycemia, physical activity won't cause your blood glucose level to fall below normal the way some other diabetes treatments may.
In this article, you will learn how exercise can be incorporated into a battle plan for managing diabetes. First, though, you must consider some of the risks, which are outlined in the following section.