Elevated levels of glucose within the blood stream for prolonged periods starts to damage the vessels that carry our blood around the body. Fatty deposits can start to attach to the damaged areas of blood vessels and cause plaques. If a plaque were to break off and lodge in a coronary artery or in the brain you could suffer a heart attack or stroke.
So why is exercise good for diabetics?
Controlling blood sugar levels: When we exercise our muscles use glycogen which they have been storing, this store comes from converting glucose in our bloodstream to glycogen. So if you exercise and burn off some of your glycogen stores, you will remove glucose from your bloodstream by converting it into glycogen to re-stock your depleted stores in the muscles (and liver).
Maintaining cardio-vascular health: This is important, maintaining good function in the heart and blood vessels. Monitoring blood pressure is important for diabetics, as mentioned above the damage caused by elevated blood sugar levels and the formation of plaques can be exacerbated by high blood pressure.
Controlling cholesterol levels: We all need to be aware of our cholesterol levels, it is important for diabetics to monitor cholesterol to minimise the chance of developing further health conditions. Exercise is an excellent way to improve cholesterol especially when combined with a healthy nutrition plan. Reducing total cholesterol level to below 5 and having an HDL level (good cholesterol) above 1 is the desired range on a cholesterol test.
Improved circulation: Diabetes can damage nerves and/or lead to poor circulation in the feet and hands, this is known as peripheral neuropathy. Exercise may help to improve circulation to these areas of the body and reduce the chance of pain or loss of sensation.