The Benefits of Exercise for People with Type Diabetes

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Although it doesn't normalize the blood glucose or lower the hemoglobin A1c in T1DM, exercise has several very important functions that are essential to a healthy body. They include:

^ Preventing heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral vascular disease:

People with T1DM usually die of cardiovascular disease due to arteriosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries). Exercise reduces the frequency of all forms of arteriosclerosis by increasing good cholesterol (HDL), decreasing bad cholesterol (LDL), making the heart more efficient, and improving lung function.

^ Controlling the blood glucose more easily: When a person with T1DM exercises, his insulin sensitivity increases. This means that less insulin is needed to handle the carbohydrates he consumes. This increased sensitivity can last for 24 hours after exercise. In my practice, the people who take the least total daily insulin are the heavy exercisers. They also tend to be in excellent diabetic control with low hemoglobin A1c levels.

Increased insulin sensitivity means that a person with T1DM may be prone to nighttime hypoglycemia if he doesn't eat a bedtime snack after exercise and doesn't reduce his pre-exercise insulin. See Chapter 4 for more about hypoglycemia.

Some additional benefits of exercise for patients with T1DM include

^ Lower blood pressure

^ Easier loss of weight and weight maintenance

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^ Stronger bones

^ Lower rates of heart disease and cancer ^ More energy ^ Greater libido ^ Increased mental ability

You may think that kids with T1DM don't have to worry about blood pressure, weight maintenance, strong bones, and heart disease, but the earlier they develop good exercise habits, the greater the chances that they'll stick with their routine for the long haul and live full, healthy lives.

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