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How walking can help manage diabesity
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How walking can help manage diabesity

Being overweight and diabetic is a double whammy. We take a look at how one can shed those extra kilos in a healthy way
Physical activity and fitness routine, like walking, will help people with diabesity
Photo by Anantha Subramanyam K

Diabetes management is all about healthy diet and regular physical exercise like walking. Losing excess body weight and bringing down insulin resistance are the core strategies involved in achieving remission from this lifestyle induced adverse health condition, which is often referred to as diabesity, across the globe. An ideal mix of adequate physical activity and a suitable fitness regime would help obese people with type 2 diabetes to lose weight and maintain normal blood glucose levels.

Diabesity: How obesity is related to diabetes

Obesity + diabetes is known as diabesity in modern lingo. Studies reveal that a high body mass index (BMI) due to being overweight has a strong relationship to diabetes and insulin resistance.

People with diabesity are at higher risk for insulin resistance leading to a higher level of blood sugar (hyperglycemia). This can worsen diabetes triggering several other health complications. That’s why losing weight is the best option to keep diabetes under control. That’s precisely what Kashmira Soni (47) did. A diabetic for seven years, she started going on long walks daily to shed a cool 20 kilograms over six months. She walked her way from 85 kg to 65 kg and is proud of her feat. Now all she has to do is watch her weight when she relishes her favourite foods.

“I cannot resist a high-calorie evening snack like khaman dhokla or khandvi,” said the Chennai-based home chef. “So, whenever I gorge on them, I check my glucose level and go for a longer walk, for at least an hour more than usual to burn off those delicious yet unwanted calories.”

How to lose weight to manage diabesity

Being a couch potato is no good for a person with diabesity. “Physical activity is the key to reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. When it comes to losing weight and keeping unwanted kilos from creeping back on, doing more is better,” shares Dr Hardik Patel, consultant, physiotherapy, Fortis Hospital Mulund, Mumbai.

When you have diabetes or pre-diabetes:

  • Two and half hours (150 minutes) of aerobic physical activity along with strengthening exercises, two to three times each week are essential. This can help improve blood glucose levels and heart health.

For weight loss or weight management:

  • Gradually work toward four to five hours (240 to 300 minutes) of weekly activity.

“No matter what, the trick to improving glucose control is to be active most days, leaving no more than two days in a row without doing some type of activity,” Dr Patel explains.

Eat less, exercise more

Eating fat-rich, processed foods and, worse, not exercising is the perfect recipe for fat storage, says Dr Ramana V Krishnan, founder, of The Fasting Studio, Bengaluru.

“It helps to choose your food carefully, eat fewer meals, and do multiple types of exercises to burn calories and achieve a healthy weight loss,” he shares. “Ideally, those with diabetes should start with one exercise type at a time such as walking on the treadmill in the morning and strength training in the evening,” he adds.

Walking for diabetes

Weight-management experts and fitness trainers specialised in working with people with diabetes said walking was a part of their exercise routine. “An ideal weekly workout plan for diabetics would be to do resistance training for three days a week,” said KG Rajeesh Kumar, a weight-management specialist based in Kochi. Rajeesh Kumar also pointed out that on cardio days, multiple workout methods could be adopted, including swimming.

“Swimming is a great way to work out if the individual has some joint-related issues as it will be less stressful for their joints. Aquatic exercise always exerts minimum stress on such people as the ground reaction force exerted on their joints will be lesser as compared to regular hard surfaces,” he said.

Rajeesh Kumar also pointed out that walking outdoors should always be preferred than walking on a treadmill indoors as far as calories expenditure and weight loss are concerned.

“More calories will get burnt if a person is walking outside as compared to walking on the treadmill. This is mainly because the person will have to exert force on the surface and move ahead while walking outdoors. On treadmill it is mainly about maintaining balance as per the speed of the belt. Walking outside also activates more muscles than the ones that are pressed into action while walking indoors on the treadmill,” he said.

People with chronic diabetic conditions like neuropathy should exercise a bit of caution while walking outside to avoid injuries or cuts on their foot since these could lead on to complications like a diabetic foot ulcer.

Diabetes friendly strength-training tips

Using all the muscles of the body is safer than allowing only a certain muscle to bear all the weight of the body. This is why lifting weights seems to be more effective at increasing lean muscle mass as well as body strength. Strength training can improve the elevated blood sugar level after a meal. This is why it’s recommended as an evening workout. Begin working out at home and then move to a trainer at the gym. Invest in a pair of dumbbells for starters.

Evening weight training

  • Begin with easy upper body exercises such as push-ups
  • Move on to bicep curls, shoulder presses with hand weights, triceps extensions and chest flys at your own pace

A word of caution while working out

Over-exercising, to burn more fat, could be risky as people could injure themselves with a muscle tear or injury to their knee joints. Worse still, the blood sugar levels could come down drastically (hypoglycemia).

It’s wise to ask for expert help to design the exercise plan since each person’s capacity for exercise is different especially if one is diabetic and obese. Experts also point out that people with diabetes especially the elderly should always consult their doctor and also be careful about their diet and blood sugar levels before working out as they have a higher risk of fall-related injuries due to loss of balance triggered due to blood glucose fluctuations.

A few pointers on sweating and taming blood sugar

Dr Patel says to keep in mind the following:

  • Physical activity should feel energising, not painful or overly difficult.
  • There are a couple of ways to tell if you are doing enough activity without pushing yourself too hard. The simplest way is to do the ‘talk test.’ You should always be able to talk to someone while you are doing an activity. If you become so short of breath that you can’t talk, it’s a sign that you should slow down. Why? First, if the activity feels uncomfortable or difficult, you are less likely to stick with it. Second, if you do too much too fast, you may become fatigued or injured.
  • Be kind and gentle with yourself — especially when you are just beginning to increase activity in your daily routine. As you become fitter, you’ll be able to exercise at a more vigorous pace.

Some crucial signs to watch out for if you have over-exercised:

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue or dizziness
  • Headache
  • Rapid rise in heartbeat
  • Uncontrollable hunger
  • Extreme sweating

Take it slow and easy. Always avoid overexertion, especially while working out with weights.

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