Dr Jeanne Grace.

Senior Lecturer in Biokinetics, Exercise and Leisure Sciences at UKZN, Dr Jeanne Grace, says exercise and movement are essential components in the management of diabetes alongside diet and weight control.

Grace made the statement on World Diabetes Day 2015 on 14 November.

She said being diagnosed with diabetes was no reason to stop exercising – rather it was a wake-up call for sufferers to start if they had been physically inactive.

‘A diagnosis of diabetes is also no reason for an elite athlete to give up, regardless of their sport. A person who has been diagnosed with diabetes can do anything their non-diabetic peers can do, provided they are able to manage their condition effectively. A biokineticist can play a key role in this.’

Grace emphasised that dealing with diabetes effectively required a multidisciplinary approach and she advised anyone with raised glucose levels to be checked by a GP, physician or health nurse for other diabetes-related risk factors.

‘Once you know what your glucose level is and whether you have any of the diabetes-related risk factors, the biokineticist will prescribe an exercise or movement programme that is designed to reduce your glucose level and fat mass, while taking account of your state of health.

‘The exercise programme prescribed by the biokineticist has to be combined with an appropriate individualised eating programme, which should be formulated by a registered dietician. Should you have any of the side-effects of diabetes, they will be taken into account by the biokineticist and dietician when formulating appropriate exercise and eating programmes,’ said Grace.

Grace, who is also Director of Health Promotion at the Biokinetics Association of South Africa (BASA), urged the 3.5 million South Africans – about six percent of the population – who have been diagnosed with the disease to consult a biokineticist for advice on the most appropriate exercise programme.

With a further five million South Africans estimated to be pre-diabetic, BASA advises everyone to have their glucose levels tested.

‘The longer diabetes goes undiagnosed and unmanaged, the more damage it can cause to your cardiovascular system, nerves, kidneys, eyes and feet. It can also increase your risk of Alzheimer’s, and affect your hearing and even your skin,’ said Grace.

The benefits of an exercise programme to diabetics are:

·  improved glucose control and improved insulin sensitivity

·  a reduction in medication required

·  a decrease in body fat and the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases

·  the prevention of Type 2 diabetes.

Hypoglycaemia – low blood glucose or low blood sugar – is a serious problem for diabetes mellitus sufferers who exercise and mainly affects those taking insulin or oral hypoglycemic medications that increase insulin secretion.

Diabetes mellitus refers to a group of diseases that affect how your body uses blood sugar (glucose). Glucose is vital for good health because it’s an important source of energy for cells building muscles and tissues. It’s also the brain’s main source of fuel.

* Diabetics have an excess of glucose in their blood and this can lead to serious health problems including cardiovascular diseases, heart attack, a stroke, narrowing of arteries (atherosclerosis), Alzheimer’s disease, hearing impairment and skin conditions.