How Exercise Benefits the Type 2 Diabetes

Improve your blood sugar levels and insulin health, as well as your risk of complications from type 2 diabetes, by following the advice of endocrinologists and exercise physiologists. Exercise is a critical step in achieving your goal of managing type 2 diabetes or preventing it entirely.

The long-term benefits of exercise on blood sugar and insulin health are unquestionable, says Rasa Kazlauskaite, MD, director of Rush University Medical Center's diabetes technology program and associate professor of endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism.

A study evaluation, for example, discovered that in persons with type 2 diabetes, regular exercise can minimize reliance on glucose-lowering oral medicines and insulin. According to one study, increasing physical activity can help reverse prediabetes, which affects more than one in every three adults in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Exercise for insulin health, thankfully, does not have to be difficult. The standards for exercising with diabetes are nearly identical to the federal guidelines for all adults, regardless of blood sugar status. Adults with type 2 diabetes should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical exercise every week, according to the American Diabetes Association. Weekly exercise should ideally be spaced out over at least three days, with no more than two days going by without any type of movement. Shorter durations of 75 minutes per week may be sufficient for those who engage in high-intensity exercise.

According to a 2023 study, exercise helps control prediabetes and type 2 diabetes by reducing blood glucose levels and boosting insulin sensitivity throughout the body. Here's how it's done:

Muscle Development:

Muscle is continually undervalued when it comes to blood sugar regulation. "After you eat, 70 to 80 percent of the glucose in your body goes to your muscles," she said. "The lower our muscle mass is, the more we hinder our capacity to clear glucose from the bloodstream." On the other hand, the more muscle we keep as we age, the more insulin receptors we have and the higher our glucose "sink," according to Occhipinti.

Visceral Fat Loss

Abdominal fat, also known as visceral fat, plays a significant role in the development of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. "These fat cells not only store energy, but they can also produce and release a slew of chemicals and hormones that make the body's use of insulin more difficult, worsening insulin resistance."

Enhancing Vascular Health

When you exercise, your muscles release a variety of substances that are beneficial to your vascular and circulatory health, according to Occhipinti. This means that more oxygen and nutrients may reach their destinations, lowering the risk of diabetes-related neuropathy, visual loss, and heart problems.

Reduced Cholesterol and Blood Pressure

Exercise not only improves heart health by increasing blood flow and decreasing inflammation, but it also lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels, according to Occhipinti. According to the American Heart Association, both are major contributors to the progression of heart disease.

Stress Reduction

According to the 2023 study, exercise lessens the body's fight-or-flight response to stress, which in turn lowers blood sugar levels.

Nerve Function Restoration

In one study, men and women who exercised for 10 weeks saw a significant reduction in diabetes-related discomfort and neuropathy. Researchers highlight that nerve health and function increased during the course of the trial. This has far-reaching consequences for joint health, injury and infection prevention, and organ function.

Inflammation Control

According to one study, inflammation throughout the body is thought to be a main cause of the advancement of type 2 diabetes and its associated problems such as atherosclerosis (arterial plaque formation), cognitive impairment, and joint degradation. However, Occhipinti says that regular exercise can help lower chronically high inflammation levels and hence mitigate its negative effects.

Bottom Line

In short, any movement is beneficial, and more is generally preferable," Malin stated. "The combination of aerobic exercise and weightlifting is almost certainly superior to either alone." Exercise in the afternoon may work better for glucose control than exercise in the morning, and exercise after a meal may benefit somewhat more than exercise before a meal.

Furthermore, you do not have to lose weight to reap the benefits of exercise. This is due to the fact that exercise can both reduce body fat and enhance muscular mass.