The Role of an Exercise Physiologist in Diabetes Treatment

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With Diabetes Awareness week, we thought we’d explore the role different practitioners can have in your treatment or management of diabetes. If you do have diabetes, exercise is an amazing way for you to manage your disease. An Exercise Physiologist can be an extremely useful resource when it comes to incorporating exercise into your lifestyle.

An Exercise Physiologist uses their immense knowledge in movement and exercise to assist clients with various issues or complaints, and also work closely with clients suffering from a chronic condition. They will use evidence based practice to prescribe the most appropriate exercise based treatment for each of their clients. 

Why should exercise be a part of your management plan?

Exercise improves glycaemic control, physical functioning, cardiovascular fitness and will decrease cardiovascular risk factors. Poor glycaemic control leads to an increased likelihood of cardiovascular, renal and ophthalmic diseases. Thus exercise is a great way to decrease the overall risk of these associated diseases. Exercise will assist with changing body composition to ensure those with diabetes are able to maintain a healthy weight range to assist with improving control of their blood sugars. Exercise also provides benefits with overall mood, motivation and improvement in daily tasks. 

Those who live with diabetes should aim to meet a minimum of 210 minutes of moderate intensity or 125 min of vigorous intensity exercise each week. This should consist of a combination of aerobic and resistance training. Resistance training should be completed at least two times a week.

How do I get started?

Before starting an exercise program, a diabetic should first consult with their GP and their Diabetes Educator. An Exercise Physiologist can assist with specific exercise prescription tailored for each individual, based on their goals, preferences and ability. It is important to monitor blood glucose levels pre and post sessions to ensure clients are not at risk of a hypoglycaemic event. Ongoing exercise and activity will assist with maintenance of blood glucose levels through improved glycaemic control. 

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The benefits a diabetic could experience by incorporating exercise in their management plan include:

  • improves your diabetes management through improving your insulin sensitivity and blood glucose control
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Improves cholesterol
  • Reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke
  • Improves blood flow
  • Boost energy and mood and helps tame stress

Remember, before starting an exercise program, you should:

  • Check in with your GP and Diabetes Educator
  • Book in to see an Exercise Physiologist
  • Either alone, or with your Exercise Physiologist, plan ahead and set realistic goals
  • Remember to track your blood glucose levels pre and post sessions to avoid hypo/hyperglycaemic episodes

Reference - M.D. Hordern et al. / Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 15 (2012) 25–31