Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Diabetes and Exercise

Don't give up if you have diabetes!

Many factors contribute to the onset of diabetes, including genetic predisposition and diet. But exercise and proper nutrition can help reduce the odds of getting and the severity of this disease. Diabetes comes in two types, Type I and Type II. In either case, the body has difficulty regulating the level of blood glucose. Glucose is the primary source of energy for the body's activities.

One basic reason is the inability to produce the proper amount of insulin, a hormone that helps transport glucose to the cells. In Type I diabetes the body can't produce adequate insulin, so the loss has to be made up from the outside, usually via injection. This is the more serious type and control of the condition requires obtaining medical advice.

In Type II diabetes, individuals produce insulin, but it's less effective in performing its role as a transport aid. This is the type that is more likely to occur as we age. The kidneys become less efficient and we tend to adopt a more sedentary lifestyle. We sometimes worsen our odds by being more indulgent about food. The long term effects add up.

Type II can be controlled with diet and exercise and with careful self-monitoring under the care of a physician, the effects can be minimal.

Exercise helps increase insulin sensitivity. It also reduces body fat, which helps regulate the amount of glucose needed and used. Weight training helps by increasing the metabolic rate, reducing body fat. At the same time, it increases the use of glucose used by muscles and improves the ability of muscle tissue to store it. All those help achieve the preferred glucose level.

Get professional advice and start any new program slowly, particularly if you have not been active habitually. Pain from doing too much too soon is one of the leading factors that discourages people from continuing a program. Also, the body needs time to adjust to changes in hormone level, metabolic level and thus glucose and insulin levels.

Be sure to warm up for five to ten minutes at minimum. Easy stretches and low-impact, low heart rate exercise help get the muscles infused with blood and joints limber. Take care not to exercise when it is too hot. Heat stroke (from too high an internal temperature and lack of fluid) is a risk, and more so for those who are older.

Humidity levels are a factor to consider, as well. The body's ability to regulate internal temperature is made less efficient when the moisture content of the air is high. The heat doesn't travel out of the sweat and off the skin so readily. On hot and/or humid days, wear loose fitting clothing and reduce the time and vigor of your routine.

Walking is a great way to get started. An hour per day every day is best, but even 20 minutes three or four days per week will help.

Persistence is key. Reducing the odds of getting diabetes, or controlling it once you have it, require permanent lifestyle changes. But the benefits are not only the absence of a debilitating disease, but a healthy body and improved mood.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Staying Healthy With Exercise

Who knew staying healthy was so easy?

The role of exercise in helping to lower stress - and the subsequent beneficial effects on health - has been widely studied.

Most studies carried out over the last 30 years agree: a continual high level of stress has a number harmful effects on overall health. People who experience high stress get more colds, suffer more digestive tract problems and have more frequent bouts of fatigue.

Regular exercise helps relieve stress. It does so directly, by providing an outlet for, and consuming much of, the nervous energy produced by stress. It also helps indirectly by shifting one’s focus away from the external factors producing the stress.

Exercise can help the cardiovascular system, which in turn improves blood flow, carries away toxins from muscles and organs, and helps keep the kidneys and endocrine system working well. It helps remove germs and circulate antibodies. All those promote a healthy immune system by lessening the body’s susceptibility to disease, while increasing the robustness of the immune system itself.

Exercising increases the body temperature slightly. This, as anyone who has suffered from a cold knows, is the body’s natural response to colds, flu and other diseases. The increased temperature helps kill the infecting organisms.

A study at the University of Colorado, Boulder suggests that moderate exercise helps prevent colds as well. It showed that individuals are less likely to get sick after stressful situations when they had engaged in a regular program of moderate exercise.

Exercise programs, undertaken consistently and correctly, help improve body image - that’s one of most individual’s primary goals in making the effort, after all. That improved body image often leads to higher levels of confidence and relaxation in social situations. That in turn helps reduce stress and enhance the immune system. Relax and forget the pills...the simple secret to staying healthy is exercise!

Mollie McCarl, personal trainer and owner of Fitness Spa
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