July 12 – July 18 is National Diabetes Week. National Diabetes Week is held in July each year and is an opportunity for Diabetes Australia to increase awareness of the dangers of diabetes and to raise funds for research into diabetes treatments and the search for a cure.

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is Australia’s fastest-growing chronic condition. It occurs when the body is unable to use blood glucose effectively for energy, resulting in high levels of blood sugar. The hormone insulin is essential for the conversion of glucose into energy, but in diabetes, insulin production is either not sufficient or what is available does not work properly. It is a serious condition and can lead to severe organ damage and reduced life expectancy.

Types and Causes of Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes – is usually diagnosed in childhood and thought to be due to the destruction of insulin-producing cells.

Type 2 Diabetes – is the most common form accounting for 85–90 per cent of all cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is classified as a modifiable lifestyle disease.

Gestational Diabetes – occurs during pregnancy and usually goes away after the baby is born.

While there is no single cause for the development of type 2 diabetes, there are well-known risk factors. Unchangeable risk factors for diabetes include:

  • Increasing age
  • Gender
  • Family history
  • Ethnic backgrounds
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome in women

Modifiable risk factors include:

  • An unhealthy diet
  • Not enough exercise
  • Increased weight, especially around the waist.

How Can Physiotherapy Help With Diabetes?

Physiotherapy, including an individualised exercise program, is a highly effective treatment in the prevention, management and in the rehabilitation of complications as a result of diabetes. Physiotherapy can also help to resolve any physical issues that might limit a person’s ability to exercise and therefore put them at risk of developing or inappropriately managing their diabetes.

Physiotherapy for Prevention – Evidence from research projects in Australia, and other parts of the world, has proven that lifestyle changes, including increased physical activity, can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. Physiotherapists can recommend appropriate exercise programs to assist in the prevention of diabetes and are also skilled in managing co-existing conditions often associated with diabetes risks, such as arthritis, osteoporosis and heart disease.

Physiotherapy for Management – Management of blood sugar levels in diabetes is essential to prevent the many serious complications that can arise. Physiotherapists can provide a monitored exercise program, consisting of aerobic and resistance exercise, that is suitable for the individual and will assist in improving the overall quality of life.

Physiotherapy for Treatment – Physiotherapy has a crucial role to play in the rehabilitation of loss of physical function and continuing to support people to manage their diabetes. The complications of diabetes can affect balance and postural control, resulting in an increased risk of falls. Physiotherapy intervention can prevent falls and should form part of any rehabilitation program to manage complications of type 2 diabetes.

Physiotherapy for Barriers to Exercise – With planning and support from your physiotherapist, you can easily overcome any barriers you are facing to implement a regular exercise routine.

Exercise and Diabetes

You can do a lot to prevent or manage type 2 diabetes. Lifestyle changes such a healthy diet and increased exercise are essential in successfully managing diabetes.

Exercise has a direct effect on diabetes by lowering blood glucose levels and body fat, but also indirectly assists in the management of the complications of diabetes by improving cardiovascular fitness (reducing heart disease and stroke). Many other conditions are common in older adults with diabetes – these include osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, peripheral vascular disease, impaired mobility, elevated falls risk and cognitive impairment.  Tailored exercise programs have been found to be beneficial in the management of all these conditions.

It is never too late to begin exercising. The people who show the greatest benefit are those whose diabetes is most poorly controlled. There are many perceived barriers to exercise, but, with careful planning by a physiotherapist, a suitable exercise program can be designed and safely implemented.

If you are worried about diabetes or your inability to exercise due to injury or a pre-existing health condition please get in contact with us. At Sandgate Physical Health Clinic, we have Physiotherapists who can devise treatment plans to help you prevent, manage and treat your diabetes. Call us on 3869 1099 or send us an email.

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Australian Physiotherapy Association –
Diabetes Australia –