In our Talking Science series, the Diabetes WA Health Team looks at the latest findings in diabetes research. This time: do the benefits of exercise outweigh the risks?
People living with long-term conditions, including diabetes, are often hesitant to start a new physical activity plan because they worry about making a current issue worse or experiencing a new problem. A new statement from professionals provides a clear consensus that the benefits of exercise outweigh the risks for people living with long term conditions. This consensus statement was developed in consultation with healthcare professionals and people living with long-term conditions.
The World Health Organisation has stated that physical inactivity is higher, in fact doubled, in people living with long-term conditions compared to those without. Those living with a long-term condition might want to consult their doctor before beginning a physical activity plan gradually, but medical clearance is not essential. Guidance may be useful to those with specific concerns they wish to discuss. It also seems that people living with long-term health conditions are more likely to participate in physical activity if they feel their concerns have been addressed successfully by a health professional.
If you are interested in beginning an exercise plan, your health professional (if following the guidance) might discuss the following points with you:
- for people living with long-term conditions, the benefits of physical activity far outweigh the risks
- you may feel the risks are high, despite the risks being very low
- person-centred conversations are essential for addressing perceived risk
- everybody has their own starting point
- you should stop and seek medical attention if you experience a dramatic increase in symptoms.
The consensus statement also addresses several symptom and syndrome statements. People who experience muscle or joint pain should know that being physically active will not increase their pain in the long term. There may be a temporary increase but as the body adapts to the activity this will decrease. There is no evidence to suggest this pain is associated with any further injury.
For those living with diabetes the benefits outweigh the risks in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. While hypoglycaemia is the most common adverse event associated with physical activity in people whose diabetes is managed with insulin or some other forms of glucose lowering medications, there are strategies to help reduce any risk.
Your health professional can access results of this consensus statement in an interactive website movingmedicine. ac.uk, which provides support for having person centred conversations about physical activity. Diabetes WA runs two physical activity workshops for people living with diabetes – Ready, Set, Go, Let’s Move and Type 1 TACTICS. Both workshops provide people living with diabetes a chance to discuss their individual concerns about physical activity, hear from other people living with diabetes and develop a plan that suits their needs.