The secret to my overall success, both professional and personal, is that I made a conscious choice to live my life by one guiding principle: Live life first, and be diabetic second.
The incidence rate of type 2 diabetes has been increasing in the United States for the past 40 years. In fact, the American Diabetes Association estimates that at least half of all US adults (over 65 million people) have pre-diabetes or full-blown diabetes. It is often underreported on death certificates, and is probably the third leading cause of premature death in the US.
So why is there such an increase in diabetes in this country? The biggest reason is diet.
From a young age, children are eating processed food. When they enter school – lunchrooms in many school districts are sponsored with food from McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and Coca Cola. In college – most dorm food is also like fast food, and they can eat as much as they want. That and their foray into alcohol, and we have the beginnings of obesity, insulin resistance, and pancreatic damage. The very concept of type 2 diabetes used to be called “adult diabetes”. Since many teenagers are now diagnosed, it’s now time to change the name.
One would say that if diabetes is a disease of the foods that you eat, then simply change the foods you eat. Not that simple. Once you’re diagnosed with diabetes, you become a ward of the medical system. Doctors will perform a lot of tests, take blood, and prescribe both insulin and drugs to mimic the glucose-lowering effects of the body, and many spend a minimal amount of time counseling on the right type of diet for your needs.
There are, in fact, many good diets to lower blood sugar, like the well-known Keto diet, which emphasizes higher fats and low carbohydrates. This is something that doctors have been prescribing in one form or another since the Atkins diet in the 1960s. What about vegetarian and vegan diets? If you ask Dr. John McDougall, one of the nation’s leading plant-based doctors, he would advocate that a diet higher in plant-based carbohydrates is better for the body than high amounts of meat and cooking oils.
Both may have a point, but if you look at the food choices that most Americans have, they walk into a grocery store, and if they’re not savvy enough to shop on the outside isles (fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses), they are trapped in an endless cycle of boxed cereals, candy bars, frozen foods, soft drinks and alcohol. It is almost impossible to go to a store and not pick up about 50-75% of food from a box, bucket or bottle. Many still haven’t put two and two together — that the foods they eat now will have an effect on their physiology and medical status in 5-20 years.
So what’s missing? I have been in an interesting position of working in diabetes research in the 1980s, and watching from the sidelines the work, research, and policy in this area of medical care for the past 30 years. Here are my thoughts.
First, although exercise is touted as part of the trilogy of treatment for diabetes (along with diet and insulin), it is the first to be discarded for another type of treatment that is expedient and profitable.
Second, there are little, if any, referrals to the health club sector in order to work on basic exercise programs for persons with diabetes. Even moderate types of programming will results in dramatic drops in body weight (and fat), daily blood sugars, and A1c levels. It simply is not being done. Many in allied health scream that personal trainers and fitness instructors are not qualified to teach exercise programs for diabetes. With the advent of medical fitness over the past 20 years, this simply isn’t the case today. I would think that having a mechanism to get patients into health clubs through their health plan, or Medicare, or a revolving door policy with their physician group, would be an outstanding way to get more patients into the exercise routine.
Third, people who work in the fitness industry should be looking very carefully in getting diabetic persons into their facilities in their communities. This takes an effort with health club trainers, club managers and company owners to reach out to the medical community through health programs, lectures, fairs and membership discounts in order to get patients in the door. It may even entail home exercise visits, or online coaching where patients are taught programs, and keep their exercise routines times and exercise notes.
Lastly, the fitness industry needs to move into the technology realm and look at the effects of exercise on patients both over 3-4 weeks, but also 3-4 years. This will be done through outcomes-based software programs that can be detailed to physicians, health plans, and sports medicine journals. Once the majority of medical fitness centers and health clubs are on board, we will see a changing of the guard in terms of what Americans think is the best type of treatment program to reduce diabetes symptoms, and look at the data of how people exercise, and how many of their health risks are being reduced by a challenging and consistent exercise program. This can be done at any age, and at almost every state of diabetes — whether they are newly diagnosed, or have basic complications that they are dealing with regarding long-standing diabetes.
It is time to embrace exercise as part of a diabetes prevention and reduction strategy. If not, in 20 years we will probably see the epidemic at such a high level, that a good portion of Americans will not be able to work due to their complications. The costs to society will be even higher than they are now. It’s a risk we don’t need to take, because of the untapped market of over 31,000 health clubs in the US, there is virtually no reason not to engage in exercise. It would seem that our nation’s health depends on our next steps – literally.
Eric Durak is President of MedHealthFit – a health care education and consulting company in Santa Barbara, CA. A 25 year veteran of the health and fitness industry, he has worked in health clubs, medical research, continuing education, and business development. Among his programs include The Cancer Fit-CARE Program, Exercise Medicine, The Insurance Reimbursement Guide, and Wellness @ Home Series for home care wellness.
There is plenty of news in the media which says that the COVID-19 is harmless for a healthy individual. They also mention that people with underlying conditions are sensitive to the disease. One such underlying condition that many have is Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. According to sources, Tom Hanks testing positive for COVID-19 caused panic… that was because this popular actor is also a Type-2 diabetic.
Why are Diabetic People More in Danger?
A healthy person and a diabetic person are at the same risk of catching the infection. The difference is how the patients deal with the virus. A diabetic patient has a higher chance of facing complications. A person with diabetes will face severe symptoms if they get COVID-19. Diabetes fluctuates the level of glucose in your body. Because of this, diabetic people with COVID-19 have severe inflammation and swelling.
Tips to Protect Diabetic Patients from the Coronavirus
Being a diabetic or the caregiver of such a patient will be stressful for you. Social distancing is the only you can avoid getting the disease. In case you are wondering how to practice social distancing here are a few tips:
- Avoid going outdoors, and only do so if it is essential.
- Avoid visiting a sick person, whether they are Coronavirus patients or those suffering from any illness.
- Try working from home. Discuss this with your employer and try gaining their support in this regard.
- Avoid gatherings and large crowds. These include cinemas, restaurants, clubs and bars.
- Maintain your blood sugar levels in normal range. That is because people with optimum levels of blood glucose have fewer complications.
- Regularly wash your hands. Follow guidelines on the internet about properly washing your hands. If you do not have access, try sanitizing your hands as an alternative.
- Avoid hospitals and try contacting your doctor through the phone.
- Keep yourself aware of the symptoms of the Coronavirus disease. If you observe any such symptoms, immediately call your general practitioner.
The government suggests shielding advice to all diabetic patients. It meant that all people vulnerable to the disease stay at home for almost 12 weeks. During this period, you should avoid all face-to-face contact. You must understand the risks that you are putting yourself into if you do not take precautions.
Terrance Hutchinson is the Owner of Your Best Lifestyles Fitness and Nutrition. He is a Certified Personal trainer specializing in Exercise Therapy, Corrective Exercise, Sports Nutrition, and Corporate Wellness. He an author of 3 books, he has his own podcast, he has contributed articles to major newspapers and magazines, Terrance has spoken at health events, webinars, seminars, hospitals, schools, doctors offices and has been featured nationally syndicated television platforms. Terrance has clients in many states and counties and is looking to help others bridge the gap between the medical and fitness industries. To learn more about Terrance, visit yourbestlifestyles.com
Given that in the United States alone, there are close to 30 million people who have diabetes and five to 10 percent of those have type 1 diabetes (and must use insulin), many of your clients may be insulin users…
There is an opportunity for wellness and wellness coaching to impact the lives of millions of people in a life-saving way. 79 million Americans are estimated to have a condition called pre-diabetes. Usually symptom free, without intervention they will develop full-fledged Type II diabetes within ten years and possibly endure physical damage to their heart and circulatory system along the way. Yet, according to the American Diabetes Association, if a person is successful at lifestyle improvement they can completely avoid the onset of diabetes 70% of the time.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine’s flagship journal, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise (1), there are more than 21 million Americans with Type 2 Diabetes as of 2010 with an estimated 7 million undiagnosed. If these numbers don’t mean much, let’s give it some perspective: in 1958 there were only 1.5 million. (Granted, the US population has increased, but only from about 180 million to 310 million, not 15-fold as in the numbers of T2D.) Furthermore, due to the now-defined pre-diabetes – or sub-clinical diabetes where the precursors to diabetes are lurking if lifestyle does not change dramatically – it is estimated that 80 million Americans are at risk. Thus, some public health officials are predicting that 21-33% of Americans will have diabetes by the year 2050. The healthcare burden this portends will bankrupt the nation. To make matters worse, the preponderance of both pre-diabetes and T2D is increasing in children and adolescents as sedentary behavior, poor diet and obesity abounds.
While prevention is optimal and much is being done in the way of public health messaging, one of the best means by which to regulate blood sugar in either healthy, pre-diabetes or T2D patients is through physical exercise. Recall above where we discussed how muscles use the sugar in the blood for fuel. The more muscles you have and the more regularly they work at some critical level of effort, the easier it is to control blood sugar. In fact, one’s levels of physical activity (PA) may be a better predictor of risk for diabetes than one’s BMI (body mass index, a ratio of height to weight.)
For the sake of discussion, we should break down physical activity into three main types – activities of daily living (ADL), aerobic exercise (AE) and resistance (or strength) exercise (RE). The MSSE article reviewed the data on all these for their impact on blood sugar, insulin control and T2D risk. Not unremarkably, the evidence strongly suggests that the more active you are, the lower your post-meal and long-term blood sugar is, the better your muscles are able to use the sugar in the blood (glucose tolerance or insulin sensitivity), the lower or lesser your insulin response is to food intake, and the lower your risk for diabetes is. What is remarkable, however, is how little physical activity is required in order to affect many of these changes and benefits.
As far as ADLs is concerned, the general prescription is to ambulate (walk, run, bike, etc) for 30-60 minutes a day or close to 10,000 steps/day, or almost 4 miles/day. This does not mean you have to take walks that last that long; it means you should move around more often throughout the day and sit less often. In fact, some studies show that simply standing up for 2 minute bouts of walking every 20 minutes of sitting lowered post-meal blood sugar and insulin response to eating. (2) While walking is effective, new studies (3) demonstrate that high intensity interval training (HIIT), or sprinting, may be an even better regulator of blood sugar. Comparing training programs in two groups of sedentary women, one doing intervals of moderate intensity, the other at high intensity, the authors found that the HIIT group had slightly greater fat oxidation in the muscles, a roundabout indicator of improved glucose control. HIIT might also be more time efficient.
Between the two studies referenced here, and many more that have looked at HIIT programs compared to traditional long, slower/lower intensity programs, the general belief is that the more muscles that are contracting and the harder they contract, the better the short-term and long-term blood sugar control. The only caveat here is that large muscle groups or bigger body movements are necessary to see these effects; single joint/small muscle contractions will not elicit the disease-modifying effects one might be seeking. For these reasons, RT has been getting more looks when it comes to modifying risk factors for T2D. In fact, the preponderance of evidence shows that RT, at sufficiently high enough intensities to build muscle mass, improves blood sugar control both by using sugar to fuel contractions and by improving the insulin sensitivity of those muscles even after the workouts.
Overall, physical activity has been shown to be an effective, efficient and low-risk/low side-effects treatment and preventive for T2D. A single bout of exercise is sufficient to regulate blood sugar for the next 16-24 hours.
As such, it is recommended that exercise be partaken nearly every day for at least 30 minutes; if obesity is a factor in a patient’s disease, then 60-90 minutes of accumulated physical activity is strongly suggested. Furthermore, a combination exercise prescription of cardiovascular and RT exercise – either same or alternating days – is deemed optimal.
To conclude, physical activity of all sorts has been found to enhance blood sugar uptake by muscles during the session and for several hours thereafter. Thus, it is one of the best, least invasive means by which to prevent, regulate and, for early stage T2D, even reverse diabetes and its downstream effects on the heart, kidneys, nerves (especially of the lower extremities), and eyes. Besides its collateral benefits on the cardiovascular system, it may help reduce weight though it is essential in maintaining weight loss. And PA clearly improves quality of life, not just through its physical benefits but its effects on the brain and psyche, reducing the risk of depression which may be a factor in both the sequence of events leading to weight gain, the challenges of both weight loss and disease management, and the reduction in one’s ability to enjoy various aspects of life due to immobility, neuropathy, visual impairment, and dialysis.
For more information about diabetes, exercise, pharmaceutical management and research, please visit the American Diabetes Association site at diabetes.org
Dr. Irv Rubenstein graduated Vanderbilt-Peabody in 1988 with a PhD in exercise science, having already co-founded STEPS Fitness, Inc. two years earlier — Tennessee’s first personal fitness training center. One of his goals was to foster the evolution of the then-fledgling field of personal training into a viable and mature profession, and has done so over the past 3 decades, teaching trainers across through country. As a writer and speaker, Dr. Irv has earned a national reputation as one who can answer the hard questions about exercise and fitness – not just the “how” but the “why”.
1. Roberts et al, Modification of Insulin Sensitivity and Glycemic Control by Activity and Exercise. MSSE, Vol. 2013: 45(10):1868-1877
2. Dunstan et al., Breaking up prolonged sitting reduces glucose and insulin responses. Diabetes Care, 2012:35(5): 976-983
3. Astorino et al., Effect of Two Doses of Interval Training on Maximal Fat Oxidation in Sedentary Women. MSSE, Vol. 45(10), pp.1878-1886, 2013
It’s been said: “If all the benefits of exercise could be placed in a single pill, it would be the most widely prescribed medication in the world.” Scientific evidence continues to mount supporting the numerous medicinal benefits of exercise. In fact, there’s hardly a disease that I can think of that exercise won’t help in one way or another, be it prevention, treatment, or even cure in some instances.
Are you working with any clients who have type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, or even prediabetes? Well, you have a lot to learn if you don’t know the first thing about those conditions! There are over 100 million Americans currently have diabetes or prediabetes—some of them are, or will be, your clients.
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that results in elevated levels of blood glucose (“blood sugar”) that can cause many health complications if not managed effectively. Although exercise is one of the three cornerstones of diabetes management, sometimes it can complicate keeping blood glucose levels under control, especially in people who have to replace the insulin that their bodies no longer make (or make enough of). How they respond to being active really depends on the type of exercise and diabetes.
In any case, on a basic level, it’s good to know more about how exercise affects people with diabetes. I have lived well with type 1 diabetes for nearly half a century at this point, and I have always known at some level that exercise did good things for my blood glucose, even before I had my first blood glucose meter (after going 18 years without one). How could I tell without a meter to test my levels? Honestly, it was because being active always made me feel better, physically and emotionally.
I earned a PhD in Exercise Physiology to better understand how exercising helped me. You don’t have to go that far with your education, but if you have diabetes or are going to work with clients or patients who have it, here are some basic things that you really need to know.
#1: Exercise can help erase your blood glucose “mistakes”
- Exercise acts kind of like an extra dose of insulin.
- At rest, insulin is the main mechanism your body has to get glucose into muscle cells.
- During exercise, glucose goes your muscles without needing any insulin (via muscle contractions).
- Being regularly active makes your muscles more sensitive to insulin, so it takes less to have the same blood glucose lowering effect when you eat during or after exercise.
- What better way to help erase a little overeating of carbs (or some insulin resistance) than a moderate dose of exercise to lower your blood glucose?
#2: Exercise doesn’t always make your blood glucose go down
- It doesn’t always make your blood glucose come down, at least not right away.
- During intense exercise, the excess glucose-raising hormones your body releases can raise your blood glucose.
- Over a longer period of time (2-3 hours), it usually comes back down, but who wants to wait that long?
- If you take insulin, you’ll need to take less than normal to correct a post-workout high or your blood glucose will likely be crashing low a few hours later.
- A cool-down of less intense exercise (like walking) can help bring it back to normal, so do an easy, active cool-down after intense workouts or activities.
#3: Your muscles are critical to managing your blood glucose levels
- Exercise also helps you build and retain your muscle mass.
- Muscles are the main place you store carbs after you eat them—like a gas tank.
- Exercising helps use up stored carbs, but can also increase the size of the tank.
- When you eat carbs post-exercise, they can easily go into storage with a little insulin.
- Being sedentary keeps the tank full and makes you resistant to insulin.
- Aging alone can cause you to lose muscle mass over time, but you can combat it to a certain extent by recruiting all of your muscle fibers regularly.
- Resistance training and/or high-intensity intervals build muscle more because they
recruit the faster fibers that you don’t use when walking or doing easier activities.
#4: Exercise is the best medicine there is
- Use exercise to control stress and to stave off depression—with no bad side-effects!
- It’s a natural antioxidant—more effective and better than supplements!
- Being regularly active prevents all sorts of cancers.
- If you’re active, you’ll likely feel better and look younger than you are (as long as you don’t exercise too much).
- You’ll be even less likely to catch a cold if you exercise moderately and regularly.
- Standing more, taking extra steps, and fidgeting even help—be active all day long, and don’t forget your daily dose of the best medicine there is!
Expand your Education to Work More Effectively with Diabetic or Pre-Diabetic Clients
Check out Dr. Colberg’s 4 hour course with PTontheNet, Working with Clients with Diabetes or Prediabetes. With more knowledge about how to be active safely and effectively, you as their personal trainer can be a strong positive influence in getting diabetic or prediabetic individuals on the path to better health. Click here to learn more about the course!
Sheri R. Colberg, PhD, FACSM, is a Professor Emerita of Exercise Science at Old Dominion University and a former Adjunct Professor of Internal Medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School. She is an internationally recognized authority on diabetes and exercise.
Personal trainers have the opportunity to do more than just help people they train become more active. We need to be prepared to also help our clients implement lifestyle behavior changes related to stress, family history of coronary heart disease, obesity, smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
A look at what is called metabolic syndrome will help you understand why, even though increasing physical activity levels is the overall best thing you can do for any client, there are additional ways to guide them to a healthier lifestyle. Sometimes you may be able to help them make the changes yourself; and, sometimes you will need to refer them to another health professional like a doctor or dietitian for guidance. Either way, knowing how to help them or when to direct them to someone who is more knowledgeable than you is important. So, first let’s become familiar with the syndrome and the clinical criteria that the doctor uses to diagnose it. Your goal is then to help your clients understand and make the necessary changes so that they don’t progress to cardiovascular disease and the almost certain heart attack heart that will be the end result.
Cardiovascular disease is still the number one cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States and much of this burden of disease can be linked to poor nutrition and a dramatic increase in sedentary lifestyles, leading to overweight and obesity. This increase in weight leads to an increase in the incidence of type 2 diabetes, and blood pressure and cholesterol problems, which are all well-established cardiovascular disease risk factors. The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Adult Treatment Panel (ATP) III has updated the recommendations for the evaluation and management of adults dealing with high cholesterol, renewing its emphasis on the importance of lifestyle modifications for improving cardiovascular risk. The NCEP has coined the term “therapeutic lifestyle changes” (TLC) to reinforce both dietary intake and physical activity as crucial components of weight control and cardiovascular risk management.
As well as focusing attention on the LDL cholesterol (also called bad cholesterol) levels, the NCEP also identified metabolic syndrome as a secondary target of therapy. Metabolic syndrome (also called insulin resistance syndrome and syndrome X) is characterized by decreased tissue sensitivity to the action of insulin (pre-diabetes), resulting in a compensatory increase in insulin secretion. This metabolic disorder predisposes individuals to a cluster of abnormalities that can lead to such problems as type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke. The prevalence of the syndrome has increased 61% in the last decade. It is crucial for medical professionals to identify patients at risk and follow these patients closely and counsel them about making lifestyle changes to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
GUIDELINE: According to the NCEP, the criteria for metabolic syndrome includes at least 3 of the following 5 clinical factors
|Risk factor||Defining level|
>40 in (>102 cm)
>35 in (>88 cm)
|Fasting triglyceride level||>150 mg/dL|
|HDL cholesterol level
|BP||>130/>85 mm Hg
or taking antihypertensive medication
|Fasting glucose level||>100 mg/dL or diabetes|
Source: Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults. Executive Summary of the Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel III). Bethesda, Md: National Institutes of Health; 2001. NIH publication 01-3670.
Millions of Americans at risk for metabolic syndrome can sharply lower their chances of getting this disease by adopting a healthy lifestyle (stop smoking, low-fat diet, weight loss/maintenance and increased physical activity). Without diet and exercise modifications, most patients will eventually fail and progress to type 2 diabetes within a decade and experience a heart attack about 10 years later. Experts recommend a diet reduced in saturated fats (<7%), low in cholesterol (<200 mg/day), high in fiber (20-30gm/day) and reduced in simple sugars. Weight loss of only 5-7% (less than 15 pounds) can make a big difference in health markers like cholesterol and blood pressure. A program that includes daily exercise reaching 85% of heart rate for age is reported to be of benefit too. However, any exercise is better than none, and a target of 30 minutes every other day is a reasonable level for most people.
As a fitness professional reading this, hopefully you are not asking yourself “so what?” but are instead seeing an opportunity to educate and motivate your current clients and to use your knowledge to help attract future clients. The medical community is good at diagnosing this syndrome, but not necessarily equipped to provide patients with the tools to be successful with the lifestyle changes they recommend. There exists a wonderful opportunity to build a partnership with physicians in your area. Most physicians will gladly refer patients to you for help with the all-important exercise and nutrition portion of the treatment program. In many cases, you have more knowledge in this area than the physician who has been trained in tertiary, not preventative, (i.e. most MD’s know very little about diet and exercise since this is not a focus in medical school) medicine. Often times all that you will need to get a referral is for the doctor to be aware of your existence and to give them an easy way to get the patient to you. A short introduction letter outlining your qualifications and showing your desire to help people make lifestyle changes is a good start. A personal visit to your primary care doctor and others in your area is even better. But, be prepared to take up just a few minutes of their time to introduce yourself, your idea, and leave your letter and cards.
Tammy Petersen, MSE, is the Founder and Managing Partner for the American Academy of Health and Fitness (AAHF). She’s written a book on older adult fitness and designed corresponding training programs. SrFit Mature Adult Specialty Certification is used nationwide as the textbook for a college based course for personal trainers who wish to work with mature adults. SrFit is also the basis for a specialty certification home study course that qualifies for up to 22 hours of continuing education credit with the major personal trainer certification organizations.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Early release of selected estimates based on data from the January-June 2003 National Health Interview Survey. URL: cdc.gov/nchs/about/major/nhis/released200312.htm.
- Summary Health Statistics Tables for the U.S. Population: National Health Interview Survey, 2016 https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhis/SHS/tables.htm 16 Apr. 2018.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevalence of health care providers asking older adults about their physical activity levels—United States, 1998. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 51(19):412-4, 2002.
- Huang, Paul L. “A Comprehensive Definition for Metabolic Syndrome.” Disease Models & Mechanisms5-6 (2009): 231–237. PMC. Web. 16 Apr. 2018.