Exercise Might Not Be Working for You...
Last updated: May 2021
From what I learn, I always come away with the impression that type 2 diabetes management should be as simple as 2+2=4… and sometimes, I overconfidently feel like it is! After all, since for many of us the condition isn’t immediately life threatening, it seems to be somewhat forgiving of our mistakes.
However, I often get the impression that this 2+2=4 is more of a scavenger hunt in which one 2 is at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the other 2 is at the top of Mt. Everest, and who knows where the other symbols are; they are invisible.
Through my walk as an advocate and support for others with type 2 diabetes, I have heard from many who have expressed frustration at exercising and its few benefits. I review their information with them, encourage them to see various educators, and to keep logs, and all in all, just throw my hands up in the air suspecting there’s just something they’re not admitting, or doing right. After all, I can’t be with them to see what they’re doing – and often we misjudge the amount of what we ate, or how much we actually exercised, and its intensity.
But… are they really doing something wrong? Could there be people actually doing everything right, and still seeing no improvement? Do you ever feel like you don’t see any metabolic benefits from your exercise routine? Do you struggle losing weight improving your blood glucose control? Is it all just in your mind?
Well, you might not be imagining things: New research published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Endocrinology & Metabolism has found that as many as 15-20% of people with type 2 diabetes do not see any improvements from exercise in their metabolism – this is about as many as 1 in 5.
These are people who are not lazy, or mentally avoiding exercising, but rather who exercise and see no improvement in blood glucose control, insulin sensitivity, or their fat-burning capabilities, because of a genetic encoding in their DNA. Scientists examined data from type 2 diabetes participants, as well as from animal and genetic studies on the topic.
The finding is important because this is a significant minority among people with diabetes and since obesity and lack of activity are among some of its risk factors, a change in diet and activity levels are often recommended. More research will be needed to determine which patients are more at risk, or to develop alternative therapies for those with this resistance.
This is not to say that exercise will not have any other benefits for these patients nor that it should be discontinued altogether. Exercise has very many benefits, and it might be that different types of exercise or exercise intensity could be the key difference in unlocking the body’s ability to reap the best rewards. It is clear, however, that the more we move into the future of diabetes management, the more that this management will have to be personalized to the individuals various health needs, challenges and overall health-make up.
But that might take some years… so before you toss in the towel and self-diagnose yourself with this resistance – please take the time to visit with a certified diabetes educator, registered dietitian, or a sports medicine specialist. The going gets easier when the going’s not done alone. You’ll be glad you did.
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