Ten years ago, Alan was a fit 60-year-old who had just returned from a long bicycle trip through France.
Then a simple blood test revealed type 2 diabetes.
His doctor gave him a three-day course on diet, exercise, and self-care for a diabetic. The doctor also recommended a local trainer. And, even though Alan knew his way around a gym, he adopted a new perspective and learned workouts to keep him healthy.
“My goals were different when I was younger,” says Alan, who enjoys an active lifestyle in Florida with his partner, 73, who is not diabetic. “Our social life revolves around meals and eating, so there are challenges. But as time wears on, we’ve adjusted how we eat and our exercise.”
The Canadian Diabetes Association says that diabetes rates in Canada have almost doubled over the past decade and will continue to rise. The CDA predicts that unless action is taken now, one in three people will be living with diabetes or prediabetes by the end of this decade. It can affect every decision, including what to eat, how to and how much exercise, and requires steady attention and management. A person’s weight is a major factor. Exercise and proper eating are important in preventing and managing diabetes.
The CDA says we can take steps to prevent type 2, the most common form. “Stay at a healthy weight, eat well and be active. With these steps, you can stay healthier longer and lower your risk of diabetes.”
The CDA defines type 2 diabetes ".. as a disease that occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to meet the body’s needs and/or the body is unable to respond properly to the actions of insulin (insulin resistance). Type 2 diabetes usually occurs later in life (although it can occur in younger people) and affects approximately 90% of people with diabetes. There is no cure. It is treated with careful attention to diet and exercise and usually also diabetes medications (antihyperglycemic agents) and/or insulin.
If you think you might be at risk, talk to your doctor. If you have been diagnosed, be sure to know about proper eating and exercising and take care of yourself every day.
How exercise helps
And no, you’re not too old to start exercising.
“Even if you've never exercised before, you can find ways to add physical activity to your day,” the CDA says. “Even if your activities aren't strenuous, you'll still get health benefits.”
Regular physical activity is important for everyone, but it is especially important for people with diabetes and those at risk for it. Get active and stay active by doing things you enjoy, from gardening to playing tennis to walking with friends.
For Alan, that means working out with a trainer at his favourite studio twice a week. He also enjoys biking, swimming, and walking.
Alan’s determination and focus are in all aspects of managing his illness – exercise, diet, checking his blood sugar, speaking with his doctor. Exercise has helped him have a better understanding of what he does and how he eats – a little bit of peace of mind, that his diabetes is more controllable.
Alan also has cut back on red meat, and has added protein to breakfasts, instead of just carbohydrates, like cereal and orange juice.
“I realize the importance of exercise in controlling my blood sugar,” Alan says. “As I look at my diabetes, the way I eat and the way I exercise… they go hand in hand.”