Exercise is important, we all know that. Whether you’re diabetic or not, regular movement has a range of benefits that have been done to death and I don’t feel the need to go through them all here. However, if you’re diabetic exercise carries a whole new level of significance when it comes to controlling your blood sugar.
I can honestly say that I can have days where all other things are equal (carb intake, stress levels, energy etc) but my BG can be much harder to control purely because I haven’t exercised.
This isn’t just me either, its widely accepted that exercise is beneficial to anyone suffering with type one diabetes as it increases insulin sensitivity.
What Is Insulin Sensitivity?
Simply put, insulin sensitivity is the term used to describe how responsive your body is to the effects of insulin. Someone with higher insulin sensitivity will require less insulin to lower blood glucose levels whereas someone with a low insulin sensitivty will require more.
Base insulin sensitivity in a type one diabetic is impacted by a number of genetic, biological and physical factors and, generally speaking, the higher your insulin sensitivity the healthier you are.
Poor insulin sensitivty (aka having to inject higher doses of insulin when you ingest carbs) can have some pretty shitty long term side effects such as:
- Damage to blood vessels
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Obesity (both a cause and a symptom)
Thankfully, exercise is THE SINGLE best way to improve your insulin sensitivity.
Why Does Exercise Improve Insulin Sensitivity?
There are some pretty legitimate studies out there that have shown a direct correlation between the physiological effects of exercise and improved insulin sensitivity. Which makes sense right? I’m not a scientist but if you activate your muscles and anearobic system you are starting a chain reaction of energy consumption within your body.
If I go and run a 5k my body has to get energy from somewhere to enable me to do that in the first instance and to then also help my muscles recover over the next couple of days. Where do we get our energy from? Calories and glucose. So if we have a higher latent demand for glucose in our bodies it makes sense that we wouldn’t need to inject as much insulin to support our bodies in converting those immediately unneeded carbs into energy stores.
That’s my wholly unscientific explanation anyway. This study makes a lot more sense than me!
But what if you don’t like running 5ks or lifting weights or doing yoga? Well there are other ways to increase your insulin sensitivity through exercise.
How I Burnt 820 Calories One Saturday Without Doing Any ‘Exercise’
I fully get that setting out to spend the next 30 minutes or an hour of your life intent on knackering yourself out with planned exercise isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It’s not mine some days. But, long term improvements in exercise levels and insulin sensitivity can be achieved in other ways.
Last Saturday I made a few planters for our back garden, nothing fancy, just a couple of decking boards, few pieces of 2 x 4, some screws, bit of cuprinol fence paint and some bags of fertiliser.
What was particularly awesome about this was the fact that, by the end of the day, I was absolutely cream crackered and had burnt over 800 calories. From setting out to Wickes in the morning to putting the last bag of compost down I had spent a good 4/5 hours on my feet, being active, buring calories. In fact, my insulin sensitivity was impacted so significantly I actually had a hypo in the afternoon (not ideal obviously, but a good indicator of how my body was responding to what I was doing)
While doing the work I didn’t really break much of a sweat, I didn’t lose my breath, I didn’t feel like I was working hard. I was just moving consistently for hours at a time!
And that’s really as simple as it can be. If you’re currently struggling to get up and out and ‘exercise’ stop thinking that you have to be out jogging or down the gym.
Hobbies To Try & Tips To Get The Most Out Of Them
If you can find an interest or a hobby that leads to you moving, you’ve already won the battle. These could include:
– This is one of the best for me, you can chew up hours and calories and end up with a beautiful outdoors space to show for it. Not sure where to start? There are a couple of apps I use that give me lots of inspiration: Candide & RHS Grow Your Own App
– Another favourite of mine and also my girlfriend’s. You can’t beat getting out and, metaphorcially, lost in the countryside. Hell, you can even do some foraging while you’re at it. Hardest thing is knowing where to go right? Well this app helps massively with that: AllTrails
– Only really counts if you combine it with the above as well but, if just the walk isn’t quite enough to get you out there, maybe the idea of getting some beautiful photos out of it is more appealing
– Any volounteering that involves you being on your feet a lot of the day would be a good place to start. Ideal would be some sort of volounteering that also involves some form of work, thinking volounteering with your local countryside rangers.
– Not one of mine personally but being on your feet all day, moving and manipulating wood, using different tools, all of this has to come together to equal an active hobby.
Insulin sensitivity is a crucial part of leading a healthy and effective life as a type one diabetic. Better insulin resistance is an indicator of good overall health and can also protect from potential health complications caused by poor insulin resistance.
However, improvements to insulin sensitivity don’t have to come just from killing yourself down the gym or running out on the road. Relatively small changes to your lifestyle, such as choosing a active hobby, can have incredible long term benefits.