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Why is it Important for Diabetics to Exercise?

“Hi, this is Dr. Silvester and I’m going to talk to you about diabetes & exercise, along with why exercise is such an important aspect of taking care of your diabetes.

I’m going to use an analogy, the analogy is called the “garage analogy.” The problem with diabetes is you get too much sugar inside your blood-stream. What that means is that if you draw blood, that’s what happens when you do the finger-stick, you draw the blood out and measure the sugar level in it. Now sugar’s not supposed to be in the blood-stream, it’s supposed to move into a few cells and the two-major cells in your body that burn-up blood sugar are the brain and muscle mass. The brain is a relatively small organ and burns sugar at a fairly constant rate. But one thing that’s interesting about the brain in people that have diabetes is that when their sugar-level drops from 300 to 100, especially over a short period of time, they start the feel very sick. The reason they feel that way is because their brain is telling their body they’re starving to death because the brain’s used to a level of 300. Once they keep the level down for a couple days, the brain gets used to it and realizes that’s what a normal level feels like.

The other cell is the muscle cell, which is fairly big and varies a lot in sugar use. Now let’s say the muscle cell is like a garage with two-doors. One where the people go through and the other where the cars go through. The people door is controlled by a lock, insulin is the key that opens that lock. Insulin opens that lock, allowing sugar to flow through the door, into the garage and let’s say there’s a fire in the garage burning the sugar. After about 10-minutes that door shuts again, requiring another key to unlock it. That’s where pills that make your pancreas make more insulin come into play. When your pancreas gets worn out, they give you injections of insulin. The problem with that key is that it doesn’t just work on the garage though. It also goes to the fat factory, and opens that door too. So insulin is a growth hormone that makes you fat. So you may notice when you first start controlling your blood-sugar better through elevated levels of insulin, you become a little overweight. Now the other door, is the garage door. When you open that, it stays open for about 4-hour, that’s opened through exercise. Now weightlifting, aerobic exercise, anything is helpful. If you open that garage door every day, a couple of things happen. The first is that the fire within the garage burns hotter. Secondly, you actually make more garages, giving the insulin more places to work. Thirdly, we think that the lock on the door gets less rusty so you don’t need as many insulin keys, so your need for insulin goes down.

It’s been clinically shown that 30-minutes of exercise is more effective than any single pill you can take for diabetes. If you have diabetes, 30-minutes of exercise, every day, can make a huge difference in how the disease is controlled and how you feel. So my advice is to get out there and do some exercise, and you’ll feel a lot better. One thing you can do to test yourself is to check your blood sugar before you exercise. Go do some exercise that makes you breath-heavily and sweat a little after consulting your doctor. Wait about 10-minutes after you’re done and check your blood-sugar level again and it normally drops 60-70 points. My dad has always said “Exercise cures everything.” And in the case of diabetes, it likely does.”