Dr. Dennis Van Hoof, PhD, CLC
“Don’t eat like I eat, unless you do like I do.”
Transcending diabetes with exercise
Raise your hand if you do not believe in the health benefits of regular exercise. I bet your hands are down. We all know that being active is good for your physical and mental well-being. Still, most of us are living a very inactive (sedentary) life. Why is that? How come we nod our heads in agreement when someone lists all the good things that a solid workout does to your body, and yet we find it so difficult to kick our lazy butt into action?
Are you a couch potato or a fit potato?
There are basically two ways you can enjoy sports:
- You can watch your favorite team on the big screen, while sitting on the couch with a beer in one hand and a bag of potato chips in the other.
- You can be the one who is breaking a sweat on the field, in the gym or out there in nature.
It is quite obvious which of these two will keep you fit, strong and healthy. But how do you keep it up? The answer is: choose the types of physical activities that you enjoy doing. You really don’t need to run until you collapse from exhaustion. Moving around for just 30 minutes per day is sufficient to become healthier and lose those dangerous fat deposits around your waist. It can be any kind of activity that you like; from hiking to biking, from dancing to fencing, from football to volleyball. Even things that are not considered sports qualify, such as gardening, dog walking, and house cleaning. If you get bored easily, then mix it up; as long as you keep it up and make it part of your routines and habits.
Exercise is good for everybody’s health, as it:
- Makes you lose excess weight; in particular fat.
- Increases your basal metabolic rate, so you burn more calories, even at rest.
- It improves your stamina, allowing you to do everything with more ease and for a longer period of time.
- It makes you feel good, by producing the hormones: dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins.
The link between obesity and diabetes was pointed out in an earlier Blog post (see Blog post “The diabetic epidemic“). A third factor is linked to both, which is a lack of physical activity (in other words: inactivity).
Being physically active has a few bonus benefits for diabetics that will help with the daily challenges of diabetes management:
- It lowers your blood glucose, as the glucose is used to fuel your muscles.
- It increases your sensitivity to insulin, which means less insulin for type 1 diabetics, and better responsiveness to insulin for type 2 diabetics.
- It stimulates blood vessel formation; not just to your muscles, but to all organs as well as fingers and toes, which reduces the chance of becoming blind, kidney failure, amputations and more complications associated with diabetes.
While good blood glucose management prevents blood vessel damage, exercise stimulates the formation of new blood vessels.
To support an active lifestyle, you need to nourish your body with the right types of food (see Blog post “The balancing act of diabetes“) at the right times (see Blog post “Timing for excellent diabetes management“). This includes carbs, as this type of food provides the fastest energy to get you moving. Although fat may keep you going for hours with endurance sports, the energy made available from fat is much slower than that of carbs. Also, carbs contain less than half the amount of calories compared to fat, so think about this before you are tempted to follow a diet that is low in carbs and high in fat (LCHF).
By making the right choices of healthy foods in the portions and proportions that support your physical activity level, you are living The Diabetic Lifestyle that makes you thrive with diabetes.
No sports athlete has ever won a medal, match or tournament on a low-carb diet.
My passion is cycling; I bike 400-500 miles per week (see Blog post “Having Diabetes and 10 Snickers per day“) and I need to eat a lot to keep me energized (see Blog post “25 Bananas in my pockets“). The only downside of cycling so much is those super-sharp tan lines that make my legs look like chocolate mousse cakes!
Keep an eye out for my next blog, and I hope to see you soon to get you started on the journey to your new life!
Dr. Dennis Van Hoof is a Certified Life Coach (CLC) with an academic PhD degree in Biochemical Physiology. By combining 20 years of first-hand personal diabetes experience with his in-depth scientific background, he developed a method to efficiently manage his own diabetes in a sustainable way. To learn how you can do this too, reach out for personal Diabetic Lifestyle Coaching or follow a group workshop that is specifically tailored to people with Type 1 or 2 Diabetes as well as pre-Diabetics and those at risk due to being overweight or obese. His clients thrive with their challenges and become an inspiration™ to others — with or without diabetes.