GN Focus | World Diabetes Day

Fighting fit

Getting your workout right is vital to combat type 2 diabetes, says Features Writer Thomas Billinghurst

  • By Thomas BillinghurstFeatures Writer
  • Published: 00:00 November 14, 2012
  • GN Focus

  • Image Credit: Corbis

In one of the most comprehensive medical reports on exercise and type 2 diabetes, Bente Klarlund Pedersen, writing in the Essays in Biochemistry, found that exercise changes body composition to mediate improvements in insulin sensitivity and blood pressure.

Given the inextricable link between diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD), cardiorespiratory fitness is imperative to your workout. Both diseases go hand in hand — each condition exacerbates and feeds off the other. And there are as many theories advocating the best type of workout for maintaining a healthy heart and thus combating diabetic side effects as there are blood cells populating the veins. But one consistent point of consensus among trainers, doctors and nutritionists in recent times is that the assumed corollary between cardio training and improved cardiorespiratory fitness is not entirely accurate.

For one, the definition of cardio training has come to be somewhat of a misnomer, says Nikesh Naik, Senior Fitness Manager at Fitness First, Mirdif City Centre. “Cardio is loosely referred to as any type of aerobic [with oxygen] activity. Essentially, most movements or exercises we do, if it is over a prolonged period, can be referred to as cardio. Therefore, running, lifting, jumping can all be defined as cardio.”

Keith Littlewood, performance coach, functional medicine practitioner and owner of Dubai-based BalancedBodyMind, says conventional methods of cardiovascular exercise can actually, when overdone, impede efficient cardio-physiological functions. “In fact, some people consider long bouts of cardiovascular exercise as an immune system suppressor, an inhibitor of metabolism playing havoc with hormones.”

Although endurance training generally boosts health, long-term, excessive endurance exercise can induce pathologic structural remodelling of the heart and large arteries, according to research published by the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Alternative training methods are often more beneficial for diabetes patients than mere endurance workouts. Littlewood explains: “A good strength and conditioning training programme will yield much better results for the CV system and will lower overall stress on the body.”

Varied, interval weight training, such as circuits, is one of the best workout regimes. Weight training increases VO2 max (the amount of oxygen that can be utilised by muscle tissues), which yields significant improvements in cardiovascular performance.

When prescribing a training programme, Naik says it’s all about balance. “From my knowledge and experience, I would recommend high intensity weight training (HIT) in tandem with longer duration activities — alternate the two throughout the week. Examples of HIT are workouts such as circuits, giant sets, or CrossFit type workouts.”

Keeping active

Nikesh Naik, Senior Fitness Manager, Fitness First, Mirdif City Centre, lists 
a safe workout plan for combating cardiovascular disease and diabetes

1. Circuit training —(30-40 minutes) 3:1 work rest ratio

2. 10m sprints — 10 sets, resting 20 seconds between sprints

3. CrossFit — Benchmark workouts

4. 5km run — Try and improve your time every time you run

5. Interval training — a major indicator of cardiovascular health

— T.B.

GN Focus