By Cory Couillard
The experts all agree – walking and other exercise is needed for individuals who are suffering with diabetes. Walking is a great way to get fit and effectively manage the progression of the condition. It improves circulation, promotes weight loss, reduces stress and balances blood sugar.
Recent research that was published in the journal Diabetes Care confirms that "modest levels of physical activity are associated with a lower risk of diabetes, compared with lower levels of activity.”
The study included 1,826 people and found that about 25 percent of the people took fewer than 3,500 steps per day, and about 50 percent of the people took fewer than 7,800 steps per day. The individuals who walked between 5,400 and 7,799 steps had between a 26 to 29 percent lower risk of developing of diabetes.
The Harvard School of Public Health recently presented obesity findings that “spending just one hour for a brisk walk may reduce your genetic tendency by half. On the other hand, a sedentary lifestyle marked by watching television four hours a day increased the genetic influence by 50 percent.”
The daily choices that we make will impact diabetes and our overall health status. To fully understand the action steps to reverse diabetes we must understand the condition, symptoms and complications of diabetes.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is caused by a problem in the way your body makes or uses insulin. Insulin is needed to move the blood sugar into the cells where it is stored and used for energy.
When you have type 2 diabetes, your fat, liver, and muscle cells do not respond correctly to insulin. Blood sugar cannot get into the cells to be stored for energy and remains in the blood stream. This buildup of blood sugar in the blood is what creates significant health problems throughout the body.
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic, degenerative condition as it occurs slowly over time. Most people that are diagnosed with diabetes are also overweight. Increased body fat makes it harder for your body to use insulin.
The Symptoms of Diabetes
Often, people with type 2 diabetes have no symptoms at first. They may not have symptoms for many years. This “silent” condition also increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
The early symptoms of diabetes may include:
• Bladder, kidney, skin, or other infections that are more frequent or heal slowly
• Increased thirst
• Increased urination
The first symptom may also be:
• Blurred vision
• Erectile dysfunction
• Pain or numbness in the feet or hands
Complications of Type 2 Diabetes
If your type 2 diabetes isn't well controlled, there are a number of serious or life-threatening problems that you may experience including retinopathy, kidney damage, poor circulation and nerve damage.
The leading cause of blindness in the world is diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes may already have abnormalities in the eyes related to the development of diabetes. As diabetes is a progressive disease, uncontrolled diabetes will significantly increase the risk of serious complications. It is important to control not only blood sugar but also blood pressure and cholesterol to prevent its progression.
The risk of kidney disease significantly increases over time. The longer that you have diabetes the greater your risk. The complicating factor of diabetes is that it is often undiagnosed for many years which allow kidney involvement to be very common without even knowing.
Poor Blood Circulation and Nerve Damage
Damage to the blood vessels can lead to increased risk of stroke and heart attack. Damage to nerves and hardening of the arteries can lead to decreased sensation and poor blood circulation in the feet and hands. This will increase the risk of infections and ulcers which can in turn significantly raise the risk of amputation.
Reverse Diabetes Naturally
Experts agree that people should aim to walk about 8 km, or 10,000 steps per day. This recommendation may seem extreme but every step adds up. Take the first step to start a walking programme today!
Starting a Walking Programme
• Stretch for 5-10 minutes before and after to reduce the risk of injury.
• Keep a good posture. Have your shoulders back and chin up. This will help breathing.
• Drink 8 ounces of water before you begin.
• Your walks don’t have to be long and strenuous to be beneficial.
Building up to 10,000
• First, check how many steps you do now. Find out the average steps you take each day.
• Once you know your starting point, try to add 500 steps every week.
• Begin slowly. Walking just 5 or 10 minutes to start is perfectly acceptable if that’s all you can accomplish.
• Add 5 or 10 minutes per week. As one continues to improve, aim for 45 minutes to an hour.
• Break it up. Several 10 to 15 minute sessions are just as effective as one longer walk.
• Find a place to walk. If one’s neighborhood is unsafe, limit walking to daytime, walk in groups or try a nearby school, community centre or shopping centre.
A pedometer is a device that counts each step that a person takes. This will greatly improve tracking the number of steps that you take each day. It is also a great motivational tool to help track one’s progress. A pedometer is not needed they are very cheap and widely accessible.
One of the best ways to stay motivated and committed to your walking programme is a walking partner. A walking partner will help keep you accountable, experience meaningful relationships and improve the overall enjoyment of the time you are spending on your health. People often crave social activity with friends and colleagues – walking is a perfect solution.
A good gauge to determine if you are walking fast enough is whether you are out of breath talking to your walking partner. If you are not out of breath, you may not be walking fast enough. As you improve your physical fitness one will be able to walk faster, burn more calories, lose weight and potentially reverse the damaging effects of type 2 diabetes.
Surround yourself with people that build you up, encourage you and facilitate your goals and passion. It is very common for people to get discouraged and stop a programme without the right support systems.
This column is directed by your questions, comments and inquiries. The health advice provided is in collaboration with the World Health Organisation's and the International Diabetes Federation’s goals of prevention, maintenance and natural treatment of disease. The advice is for educational purposes and does not necessarily reflect endorsement.
Visit their websites: www.who.int www.idf.org