It is estimated that Diabetes affects around 1.7 million Australians, many of which underestimate the seriousness of the chronic complications that can develop as a result if the condition is poorly controlled or not controlled at all. The high blood glucose, or hyperglycemia, which can occur as a result of poorly controlled diabetes places people with the condition at significant risk of developing chronic complications as the excess glucose in the blood stream causes damage to organs or tissues throughout the body.


The chronic complications that could possibly develop can be devastating for the person living with Diabetes. In 2015 Diabetes was the sixth leading cause of death, and contributed to 1 in 10 deaths the previous year.

These chronic complications include:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Kidney damage
  • Nerve damage
  • Eye damage
  • Foot damage

How Exercise Can Help

Regular exercise plays a critical role in the management plan of Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes and reducing the risk of developing chronic complications.

Exercise helps to regulate blood glucose levels in people with Diabetes in a number of ways. The muscles and liver are storage centres, storing glucose in the form of glycogen. When you exercise the muscles use the glycogen for fuel, emptying the storage centres, this means the muscles and liver are able to take any excess glucose out of the blood stream to refill the storage centres for the next time it is required.

During exercise the muscle is able to uptake glucose without insulin and following exercise, insulin sensitivity improves. However, this improved insulin sensitivity only lasts for up to 16 hours, so participation in a regular exercise program is vital in ongoing Diabetes control.

All of these actions lead to reduced frequencies of hyperglycemia, meaning there is less damage to tissue and organs which occurs when there is excess glucose.

It’s common for people who have Diabetes to also have high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol and to be overweight. All of these conditions increases the risk of developing some of the same chronic complications as diabetes, these include cardiovascular disease or chronic kidney disease and suffering from a heart attack or a stroke. Exercise not only has a positive effect on diabetes, it also plays a role in reducing hypertension and cholesterol levels, and managing obesity. Even more reason to exercise!

When commencing an exercise program for the management of Diabetes, contact your local Accredited Exercise Physiologist for guidance to ensure that you are exercising safely and that your program is enjoyable!

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