Physical Activity is Key to Preventing and Managing Diabetes

Regular physical activity is essential for maintaining a healthy weight and ensuring proper fitness of the muscles, bones, nerves and tissues of the body. Different forms of deliberate physical exercises, such as running, bicycling, swimming, weight-lifting, and team sports, as well as consistent physical movement throughout the day, in the form of walking or physical exertion during work, for example, are important factors in the prevention of many chronic diseases, especially type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Sedentary lifestyles, in an increasingly urbanized and globalized world, are one of the biggest reasons for the rising global epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise, frequently referred to as “cardio,” describes light-to-moderate intensity physical activity that utilizes oxygen to meet the energy needs of the body during the physical exertion. Walking, jogging, swimming, bicycling and a whole range of different endurance and muscular training activities like zumba, pilates and kickboxing, are described as aerobic exercises. Aerobic exercises help to build endurance, tone muscles, strengthen bones and organs, and balance the mind. Daily aerobic exercising helps to improve sleep, focus and mood, and aids in the prevention of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart and cardiovascular disease and a range of other chronic conditions. Exercising regularly is also a great tool for self-managing both type 1 and type 2 diabetes and avoiding diabetes complications. Regular exercise has also been shown to increase insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism in muscle cells.

Anaerobic exercise, on the other hand, describes high intensity physical exertion, usually for short periods of time. Sprinting, weight-training, and other activities that involve moments of extreme exertion, fall into the anaerobic exercise category. During anaerobic exercise, lactic acid builds up in the muscles, creating a “burning” sensation familiar to most strength-trainers and competitive racers. The main function of anaerobic exercise is to build strength, though the short intensive moments of exertion have also been shown to benefit heart health and reduce stress.

Team Sports and Group Exercise

Many team sports combine both aerobic and anaerobic exercise, as well as having the added psychological benefits of building confidence, forming friendships and developing a sense of community. Baseball, basketball, handball, rowing, soccer and volleyball are just a few examples of team sports that can give comprehensive benefit to the body and mind. Joining a gym, or any club of a particular physical or mindfulness activity interest like boxing, yoga, rock climbing and mountaineering, can also build a sense of community, belonging and trust.  

Get Outdoors: Physical Activity In Nature Builds A Strong Mind and Body!

Physical activity in nature also offers added mental health benefits, in addition to the principally aerobic (with occasional spurts of anaerobic in some activities) physical exercise taking place. Hiking, mountaineering, rock climbing, skiing, scuba diving and surfing, are a few examples of physical activities that can put one closely in touch with the humbling magnificence of the natural world

Learn More About Physical Activities that Promote Overall Health

  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Bicycling
  • Handball
  • Hiking
  • Jogging
  • Mountaineering
  • Racquetball
  • Rock Climbing
  • Rowing

Resources and Further Reading

The role of physical activity in diabetes prevention:

For a comprehensive look at exercise and its important role in the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes:

A Review looking at the benefit of nature to overall health, the consequences of urbanization around the world and the need for more green spaces:

A study looking at how physical activity levels and sedentary lifestyle behaviors decrease and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes incidence, independently and jointly:


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