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Exercise - The Ultimate Remedy

Exercise - The Ultimate Remedy

Take a second to stop and count all the people you know that are unhealthy and overweight. It’s a long list, isn’t it? You may or may not be on that list. Regardless, the harsh truth is that obesity has become a growing epidemic across America. Roughly 60% of the population is classified as overweight or obese. Minimal access to adequate healthcare, a greater reliance on cheaper food alternatives, and a sedentary lifestyle play a critical role in contributing to this growing number. The combining effects of a poor diet with a lack of activity creates the perfect storm. Without exercise, the body loses the ability to adjust to any excess in caloric intake, therefore causing the prevalence of metabolic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, to skyrocket.


            Type 2 diabetes is characterized by an inability to properly utilize insulin. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that works in tandem with the hormone glucagon to maintain blood glucose homeostasis. Insulin’s is mainly used to aid in the storage of glucose. For example, after a large meal insulin binds to receptors in the muscle, liver, or adipose tissue to promote the uptake of glucose from the blood. Type 2 diabetics have a weakened response to insulin and therefore cannot store blood glucose in tissues. This chronic elevation in blood glucose levels along with insufficient storage can deprive energy to your muscles and lead to fatigue, excess hunger, and a weakened immune system. If left untreated, high blood glucose levels can lead to both nerve damage and cardiovascular disease.


Lucky for us, insulin isn’t the only way to increase our uptake of glucose from the blood. The alternative? Exercise. Muscle contraction requires energy and an uptake of glucose from the blood to recover that energy. As you exercise, the increased amount of stress on the muscles leads to metabolic adaptations. The recruitment of the glucose transporter, GLUT4, increases during exercise and over time the body can train itself to become more sensitive to insulin. The blend of these adaptions improves blood glucose levels both in the immediate and long term.


  Type 2 diabetes can be progressive, taking months or even years to develop. This doesn’t mean you should ignore the problem until you begin noticing symptoms, rather this only emphasizes the importance of consistent exercise and prevention.


             A diabetes study done by Dr. Qing found that treatment involving exercise was most effective at lowering the risk of disease in comparison to medication or diet alone. Exercise, together with diet, lowered the risk of disease even more.


            One study found that active men and women who exercised 30 minutes a day, either walking or cycling, for 5 days a week had a 25-56% lower incidence of diabetes then sedentary counterparts. They found that intensity did not matter in lowering the risk of diabetes, meaning that those who performed exercise at low intensities found similar results to those who exercised at higher intensities.

If begin exercising and aren’t seeing that number on the scale decrease, that doesn’t mean you aren’t working toward a healthier body. Another study found that exercise reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes even when weight loss goals of 5-7% were not met.


            So why aren’t people being prescribed exercise routines rather medication? Why aren’t gym memberships included in health insurance? Patients are generally lazy and would rather take medication to temporarily relieve symptoms, rather dedicate the work to treating the root of the problem.





Taylor Donald

B.S. Biochemistry, Exercise Physiology

University of Miami