Why exercise is a powerful tool to treat and prevent Type 2 Diabetes
At FIBO@business 2020 Prof. Neil Reeves from Manchester Metropolitan University provides details from his research with Technogym on how exercising can prevent and treat type 2 diabetes
Prof. Neil Reeves is professor of Musculoskeletal Biomechanics and Head of Research and Knowledge Exchange in Science and Engineering at the Manchester Metropolitan University. In his role as leading international researcher in diabetic neuropathy, movement impairment and exercise, he is in frequent exchange with Silvano Zanuso, Director of the Technogym Medical & Scientific Department. At FIBO@business this October they talked about the exercise type, intensity and volume it takes to prevent and treat type 2 diabetes and gave indications on how technological advances may help.
Today, type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes worldwide
In 2020 the WHO announced: “In the past three decades the prevalence of type 2 diabetes – meaning non-insulin dependent diabetes – has risen dramatically in countries of all income levels. There is a globally agreed target to halt the rise in diabetes and obesity by 2025.” According to Prof. Neil Reeves this offers a significant opportunity for the health and fitness industry: “Today, with about 90-95%, type 2 diabetes is the most prevalent form of diabetes worldwide which is due to poor diet over time and an inactive lifestyle. The industry can help not only in preventing but also in managing this issue.”
Exercise can have an insulin-like effect
When it comes to treating insulin-resistance, according to Prof. Reeves exercise can trigger the uptake of glucose from the blood and help maintaining an appropriate glucose level. This supports not only the management but also the prevention of diabetes. However, exercise is only one aspect of movement that can help. According to Prof. Reeves and Silvano Zanuso there are a number of different dimensions of movements: “Every single movement, be it physical activity, exercise or sport is important. It’s necessary to incorporate as much physical routine as possible to the every day life.”
The impact of movement explained
Prof. Reeves explains that largest areas of glucose uptake in the body is the skeletal muscle. “So when skeletal muscle is active it can be very effective. In short: The more we move our muscles, the more we uptake glucose from the blood.” Silvano Zanuso agrees and summarizes that active people are sensitive to insulin. According to Prof. Neil Reeves studies have shown that muscles of people who don’t exercise actually become more sensitive after a program of exercise training: “So we know that this is reversible and structured exercise can improve their system no matter from where they start.”
So which type of exercise?
Traditionally aerobic exercise has been prescribed for people with diabetes. However, according to the two experts there are more forms of exercise that are helping preventing and managing diabetes. “It is known that people with diabetes quite often have problems with their balance so improving this and reducing fall risk through balance exercises does help”, explains Prof. Reeves. On top effective muscle strength achieved through resistance exercises is useful for people with diabetes too:
- Aerobic exercise: improvements in glycemic control, improved nerve function (conduction velocity and amplitude)
- Balance exercise: improvements in postural balance and reduced fall risk
- Resistance exercise: improved posture and motor skills, increased strength, improvement of cardiovascular system, reduced fall risk
To sum it up, there are quite some positive effects for people suffering from diabetes on all kinds of exercise. While aerobic exercising targets fat burning and utilization, resistance exercise training predominantly targets carbohydrate utilization and glucose control. Prof. Reeves says: “The ideal solution would be the combination of aerobic and resistance training.” This is where the health and fitness industry steps in. It’s important to advice and provide solutions that support this. As one example of where aerobic and resistance exercise trainings are mixed, Reeves and Zanuso name Circular Training.
Technology has been one of the reasons for this movement and it can now be the solution
According to the expert from Manchester Metropolitan University, people need to make a long-term lifestyle change towards a healthier, more active life and the fitness and health industry plays a major role in attracting and maintaining them to exercise. Silvano Zanuso points out that new technology can help tailoring the exercising to the individual, controlling movements, supporting smart use of data and last but not least help supporting adherence. “From experience, we can say that with technology, user-friendliness is the key to success,” explains Zanuso in connection with his role at fitness equipment manufacturer Technogym.
They both even think outside the gym: “What people do outside the gyms as part of their daily lives is probably equally important.” That’s a real chance for the fitness and health industry: “Providing an eco-system helping people to become more active wherever they are,” says Prof. Reeves. According to Zanuso, Technogym already is very committed in offering solutions for exercising in the gym and physical activity outside the gym. Prof. Reeves advice for gyms and fitness centers would be to create the equivalent environment at their spaces: “For someone with type 2 diabetes, who has so far lived a very inactive lifestyle and who has never been in gym before, it can be quite and intimidating place. To make them come in, it’s really important to create a space where they feel comfortable. And once they are in, it’s important to use the technology we have to tailor the experience to them individually. In the end it’s about: Get them in, keep them in and help them maintain a healthy lifestyle behavior throughout a lifetime. “