Bill Victor: Exercise can help manage diabetes



None of us can ignore the fact that a regular theme in the media is the chronic problem of obesity.

While there are countless theories and proof of the social and dietary events that contribute to this problem, it is easy to lose sight of the associated problems caused by body fat that contribute to various disease states including Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

A common misconception is that if a person wasn’t “born” with diabetes, they have nothing to worry about. Nothing could be further from the truth.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the United States, there are more than 26 million people with Type 1 diabetes (attributable to an existing disease state versus caused by obesity) while more than 79 million people suffer pre-diabetes. Pre-diabetes is classified as an unusually high level of blood sugar at such an extreme that Type 2 (usually weight-related) diabetes is an imminent threat.

The simple math is more compelling. Take a look at 11 “random” individuals. Statistics show that approximately 1 in every 11 of those Americans has diabetes in one form or another.

Worthy of even more attention is the susceptibility to stroke or heart disease common to that population of 105 million people who are either diabetic or pre-diabetic.

Insulin is made in the pancreas, and it plays the distinct role of helping move blood sugar (glucose) into the liver and muscle cells where it can improve the functioning of the body and muscle contraction.

In fact, exercise can expedite absorption of blood glucose into the cells at almost 20 times what would happen passively.

Unfortunately, those with some types of diabetes are more prone to have an increase in blood sugar after exercise. For this reason, many diabetics must monitor their blood sugar and wait until blood glucose levels have fallen prior to exercising.

Obesity-related Type 2 diabetes mimics the symptoms of Type I diabetes, but it can be managed so effectively through exercise and weight loss that it is not uncommon for individuals who have been managing this condition medically to significantly lower their medications and in many situations eliminate their medications completely.

A recent study regarding strength training in the management of Type 2 diabetes has shown extremely encouraging results.

In this study, Hispanic men and women presenting with Type 2 diabetes were put on a 16-week strength-training program. The results of the study concluded that the effectiveness of insulin and absorption of glucose was deemed as effective as taking medication.

These same test subjects also became stronger, developed more functional muscle, lost significant body fat and had less depression. Not bad for putting in four months of work in the gym!

Type 2 diabetics should heed some of the following considerations regarding exercise:

• Get into a routine where exercise and eating occur at the same times daily.

• Prolonged exercise (longer than two hours) can secrete stress chemicals and hormones that counteract the ability of insulin to carry glucose into the cells and dangerously raise blood sugar levels.

• Care should be taken if a person exercises at the same time that medication is reaching its peak effect.

• For the Type 1 diabetic, exercise is discouraged if blood sugar is higher than 250 mg per deciliter.

The one thing most evident is that managing diabetes through a controlled program of medication and strength training can play significant roles in living a highly functional and active lifestyle.

Bill Victor is the owner of Victor Fitness System Professional Fitness Trainers, Flashpoint Athletic Speed & Agility Specialists, and Performance Nutrition Consultants. He can be reached at and online at and