Sanjiva Wijesinha -writer and physician

Short stories, Travel and Health Information

Diabetes – E is for Exercise

blood-testing-in-diabeticThe letters of the word DIABETIC, as I have been writing in my last few posts,  provide a useful aide-memoire for someone having Diabetes to remember the most important things about managing this disease.
While the first letter D represents Dietary Discipline, I stands for Information, A stands for Attitude and ‘B’ reminds us of the importance of controlling our Blood Sugar and Blood Pressure. The next three letters – E, T and I, in that order, indicate the mainstays of treatment of the disease.
E stands for Exercise, T for Tablets and I for Injections – and it is important to note that Exercise comes before Tablets and Injections.
The basic problem in Diabetes is that the body cannot manage the sugar (which is referred to as glucose) that it consumes. Ingested food is converted in the gut predominantly into glucose – which passes into the circulation to be carried to various parts of the body, where the body’s cells then take up this glucose for use as fuel for the various activities of those cells.
What happens in Diabetes is that the body lacks effective Insulin – the hormone which is produced by an organ called the Pancreas. When the brain gets a message that glucose has entered the blood stream, it releases Insulin which then helps to use up (burn up or metabolise) the glucose.
Because Diabetics lack adequate Insulin, they have to employ other methods to burn up glucose when it enters their blood circulation.
One very effective method of keeping one’s blood sugar under control is Physical Exercise. Every time you move your muscles, you burn up excess glucose. If your muscles are well toned (through regular strength training and gym workouts) then they are able to burn up more glucose than if they are flabby and underused. Furthermore, if you use your muscles regularly and frequently – as in walking at least 45 minutes each day, or cycling, swimming, jogging or active physical work – then you will burn up more glucose than if you sit at a desk all day and only exercise your hand muscles to eat and your arm muscles to lift a glass to your mouth at the end of the day.
It does not really matter what form of exercise you do, as long as you use your muscles, work up a sweat and get a bit breathless after your “workout” – provided you undertake physical exercise for a total of at least 150 minutes (two and a half hours) each week. Of course if you can do more, that would be even better!
Doctors often recommend to their diabetic patients that regular physical exercise is probably the most important weapon that a diabetic has to control his or her blood sugar – but how many of us take this advice seriously? Many diabetics think that all they have to do is to take their tablets and injections (which, admittedly, do have an important place) but neglect the exercise aspect of management. If their blood sugar is consistently too hig, they expect the doctor to increase the dose of tablets or injections – not realising that they would be better off if they increase their level of exercise!!
Many people (including Diabetics!) do not realise that physical exercise is one of the best forms of treatment. In fact it should be the FIRST method of treatment that one thinks of when attempting to control blood sugar.

2 comments on “Diabetes – E is for Exercise

  1. sunilseneviratne
    May 16, 2013

    hi sanjiva,
    what do you do with someone who s blood sugar leval is allways close to 70
    your former teammate
    sunil

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This entry was posted on May 14, 2013 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , .
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