Diabetes Essay, Research Paper

Page No.

Introduction 3

Overview of Diabetes Type I

What is diabetes type I 4

Health implications of diabetes type I 4

Physical Activity

What is physical activity? 5

Why do we need physical activity in our lives? 5

Physical Activity and Diabetes (Epidemiology) 5,6,7,8

Conclusion 9



For our seminar topic “physical activity and disease” we chose diabetes as the focus of our


Since diabetes is such a complex disease with many different forms, we decided to focus on

diabetes type I. This is known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). This type of

diabetes includes people who are dependant on injections of insulin on a daily basis in

order to satisfy the bodies insulin needs, they cannot survive without these injections.


What is diabetes type I?

In order to understand the disease we firstly need to know about insulin. Insulin is a

hormone. The role of insulin is to convert the food we eat into various useful substances,

discarding everything that is wasteful.

It is the job of insulin to see that the useful substances are put to best use for our

well-being. The useful substances are used for building cells, are made ready for immediate

expenditure as energy and also stored for later energy expenditure.

The cause of diabetes is an absolute or lack of the hormone insulin. As a result of this

lack of insulin the processes that involve converting the foods we eat into various useful

substances does not occur.

Insulin comes from the beta cells which are located in the pancreas. In the case of

diabetes type I almost all of the beta cells have been destroyed. Therefore daily

injections of insulin become essential to life.

Health implications of diabetes type I

One of the products that is of vital importance in our bodies is glucose, a simple

carbohydrate sugar which is needed by virtually every part of our body as fuel to function.

Insulin controls the amount of glucose distributed to vital organs and also the muscles. In

diabetics due to the lack of insulin and therefore the control of glucose given to

different body parts they face death if they don’t inject themselves with insulin daily.

Since strict monitoring of diabetes is needed for the control of the disease, little room

is left for carelessness. As a result diabetic patients are susceptible to many other

diseases and serious conditions if a proper course of treatment is not followed.

Other diseases a diabetic is open to: Cardiovascular disease, stroke, Peripheral artery

disease, gangrene, kidney disease, blindness, hypertension, nerve damage, impotence etc.

Basically there is an increased incident of infection in diabetic sufferers. Therefore

special care needs to be taken to decrease the chances of getting these other serious



What is physical activity?

(Bouchard 1988) States that physical activity is any bodily movement produced by skeletal

muscles resulting in energy expenditure. Therefore this includes sports and leisure

activities of all forms.

Why do we need physical activity in our lives?

Physical activity and exercise helps tune the “human machine”, our bodies.

Imagine a car constantly driven only to stop for fuel. It would be a client for all sorts

of damage, rusting, oil leaking, dehydration and the chances are most likely it would die

in the middle of the road not long after. This is what the body would be like if we didn’t

exercise at all. We would be and as a result of todays lifestyle many of us are, the

perfect target to all kinds of diseases and infections.

For those of us who are carrier of some disease or illness we are still encouraged to

exercise by our physicians if we have the strength to. This is to help make our organs,

muscles, bones and arteries more efficient and better equipped to fight against the disease

or illness. This is our way of counter attacking. And if we are still healthy then we

reduce the chances of getting an illness or a disease.


Recently insulin injections have become available to dependant patients. However in the

pre-insulin era physical exercise was one of the few therapies available to physicians in

combating diabetes.

For an IDDM carrier to benefit from exercise they need to be well aware of their body and

the consequences of exercising.

If an IDDM carrier has no real control over their situation and just exercise without

considering their diet, time of insulin intake, type of exercise, duration of the exercise

and the intensity, then the results can be very hazardous to the patient.

In the first journal article that I used for this part of the research (Sutton 1981) had

conducted an investigation on “drugs used in metabolic disorders”. The article is designed

to provide some background information on previous beliefs and research conducted early

this century. As well as his own investigations conducted during the beginning of the

1980’s. He has compared the results and came to the same conclusion as the investigations

done early in this century.

Sutton’s findings show that decrease in blood glucose following an insulin injection was

magnified when the insulin was followed by physical activity/exercise (see figure 1). This

shows that if a person gets involved in physical activity or exercise after insulin the

volume of glucose drops dramatically. This leads to symptoms of hypoglycemia. The reason

this occurs is that glucose uptake by muscles increase during exercise, in spite of no

change or even a diminishing plasma insulin concentration. As a result of this type of

information we know now that if a patient is not controlled through a good diet and program

then they could put themselves in danger. A person who might be poorly maintained and

ketotic will become even more ketotic and hypoglycimic.

Good nutrition is of great importance to any individual especially one that exercises. In

the case of diabetes even more consideration must go into the selection of food before and

after exercise. Doctors suggest large intakes of carbohydrates before exercise for diabetes

carriers to meet the glucose needs of the muscles.

The second article that I used was that of Konen, et al. He and his colleagues conducted

testing and research on “changes in diabetic urinary and transferrin excretion after

moderate exercise”. This article was a report of the way the research was conducted and

it’s findings.

The researched found that urinary proteins, particularly albumin, increase in urinary

excretion after moderate exercise. Albumin which is associated with micro- and

macrovascular diseases in diabetic patience was found to increase significantly in IDDM

patients, while remaining normal in non-diabetics. (See table 1 and 2 for results)

These results cannot be conclusive to say that this shows that exercise causes other micro-

and macrovascular diseases in diabetics. Since albumin is not associated with any disease

in non-diabetics then the same may be the case for diabetics as well. However further

research is required to find out why such a significant increase occurs in diabetic

patients and what it really means.

It obvious that there are many very complicated issues associated with diabetes which

cannot be explained at this stage. Therefore much more research is required and it’s only a

matter of time for these complications to resolved.

Although there are no firm evidence to suggest that exercise will improve or worsen

diabetes still it is recommended by physicians.

Aristotle and the Indian physician, Sushruta, suggested the use of exercise in the

treatment of diabetic patients as early as 600 B.C. And during late last century and early

this century many physician claimed that the need for insulin decreased in exercising


The benefits of exercise in non-diabetic individuals is well known. For example reduce the

risk of heart disease. This makes exercise very important to diabetic carriers since they

are at a greater risk of getting heart disease than non-diabetics.

Unquestionably, it’s important for diabetics to optimise cardiovascular and pulmonary

parameters as it is for non-diabetic individual. Improved fitness can improve one’s sense

of well-being and ability to cope with physical and psychological stresses that can be

aggravated in diabetes.

In well controlled exercise programs the benefits are many, as shown on table 3.


In conclusion we can see that although there are many factors that need to considered when

a diabetic person exercises, still there are many benefits when an IDDM carrier controls

and maintains a good exercise program. The risks of other disease such as heart disease and

obesity are reduced.


1. Sutton, J.R, (1981), Drugs used in metabolic disorders, Medicine and Science in Sports

and Exercise, Vol 13, pages 266-271.

2. Konen, J.C, (1993), Changes in diabetic urinary transferrin excretion after moderate

exercise, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, pages 1110-1114.

3. Bouchard, C, (1990), Exercise, Fitness and Health, Human Kinetics Publishers.

4. Burke, E.J, (1980), Exercise, Science and Fitness, Mouvement Publishers.

5. Sanborn, M.A, (1980), Issues in Physical Education, Lea and Febiger.

6. Marble, A, (1985), Joslin’s Diabetes Mellitus, Twelfth Edition, Lea and Febiger.

7. Kilo, C, (1987), Diabetes – The facts that let you regain control of your life, John

Wiley and Sons, Inc.

8. Seefeldt, V, (1986), Physical Activity and Well-being, American Alliance for Health,

Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.


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