Why exercise is so important for management of diabetes

Today Longevity Exercise Physiology Drummoyne, EdgecliffMarrickvilleBella VistaRandwickPymble and Balmain, and Neutral Bay discuss the evidence of exercise for improving insulin sensitivity and managing blood sugar levels in Diabetic populations and discuss the role of exercise for the prevention of diabetes.

Diabetes has been referred to as one of the biggest challenges facing Australia’s healthcare system in the 21st Century. It has been estimated that 1 in 20 Australians have Diabetes and this can equate to roughly 280 Australians developing diabetes daily, or 1 person every 5 minutes being diagnosed.

There are three main types:

  • Type 1 Diabetes (T1DM)
  • Type 2 Diabetes (T2DM)
  • Gestational Diabetes

T1DM is an autoimmune condition when the immune system destroys the cells in the pancreas which produce insulin and cannot be prevented. T2DM concerns the body becoming resistant to the glucose lowering capacity of insulin and gradually losing the ability to produce enough insulin in the pancreas. It is strongly associated with modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors as specified below and the risk of developing T2DM can be slowed or reversed through diet & exercise.

Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy and happens when the body cannot produce and utilise all the insulin required for pregnancy. Without this, the glucose cannot be taken from the bloodstream and be converted & used for energy, causing high blood sugar levels.

Pre-diabetes is a condition that acts as a warning sign. It is a condition where blood glucose levels are higher than the normal range but not high enough to be diagnosed as Type 2 Diabetes as it is not processing sugar consumed in diet correctly and consequently accumulates in the bloodstream. There are no signs or symptoms associated with the condition and as such, without lifestyle changes, approximately 1 in 3 people with pre-diabetes with develop Type 2 diabetes.

Risk factors for Pre-diabetes & T2DM include:

  • Being Overweight or obese
  • Poor diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Older age
  • Smoking
  • History of gestational diabetes or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Extensive evidence has supported exercise to be an integral element in both the prevention and long-term management of Diabetes.

Extensive evidence has supported exercise to be an integral element in both the prevention and long-term management of Diabetes. For instance, research shows that a combination of exercise and diet can reduce risk of progression from Pre-diabetes to T2DM by 58%.

Aerobic Training

Aerobic training refers to exercise that involves repeated continuous movement of large muscle groups e.g. cycling, swimming, etc. It can increase cardiorespiratory fitness, decrease insulin resistance, improve blood lipid levels and endothelial dysfunction. That is, improving the ability of the muscles, fat & liver to respond effectively to insulin and aid in glucose uptake, and improve the function of the lining of the blood vessels to help with lowering blood pressure.

Specifically aerobic training helps to:

  • Increase mitochondrial density
    • That is, increasing the size and number of cells in the muscle which can create more energy to provide to the working muscles, improving muscular strength.
  • Increase insulin sensitivity
    • The body becomes more sensitive to the levels of insulin available in the bloodstream and enables the cells to use the blood glucose more efficiently. 


A single bout of exercise has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity for at least 16hr post exercise in healthy and T2DM populations!

Resistance Training

Diabetes can be a risk factor for low muscular strength. Resistance training, which includes exercises with free weights (e.g. dumbbells), body weight, weight machines and therabands can help to:

  • Improve glycemic control
  • Lower the levels of glucose in the bloodstream
  • Improve insulin resistance
  • Decrease fat mass
  • Decrease blood pressure
  • Increase strength and lean body mass (muscle)

Through reducing sedentary behaviour and engaging in a regular exercise routine incorporating both aerobic and resistance training, not only can you help to manage the signs & symptoms associated with all types of diabetes, but you can potentially prevent T2DM and reverse your risk of being diagnosed.

If you need someone to prescribe you a personalised program to help you manage your Diabetes, contact Longevity Personal Training and Exercise Physiology on 1300 964 002 to enquire today.

Written by Ellen Spencer



Borghouts, L. B., & Keizer, H. A. (2000). Exercise and Insulin Sensitivty: A Review. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 1-12. Retrieved from Thieme: https://www.thieme-connect.com/products/ejournals/abstract/10.1055/s-2000-8847

CDC. (n.d.). Diabetes Prevention Lifestyle Change Program. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/prevention/pdf/MDPP_Overview_Flipbook.pdf

Colberg, S. R., Sigal, R. J., Yardley, J. E., Riddell, M. C., Dunstan, D. W., Dempsey, P. C., . . . Tate, D. F. (2016). Physical Activity/Exercise and Diabetes: A Position Statement of the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care, 2065-2079.

Sultana, R. (n.d.). How to stop prediabetes becoming diabetes. Retrieved from Exercise Right: https://exerciseright.com.au/how-to-stop-prediabetes-becoming-diabetes/

Type 2 Diabetes and exercise. (2014, May). Retrieved from Exercise is Medicine Australia: http://exerciseismedicine.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/2014-T2DM-FULL-v2.pdf

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply