From improved insulin sensitivity and blood glucose management to weight loss, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol to reducing the risk of heart disease, regular exercise carries many benefits for people living with, or at risk of, type 2 diabetes.
If you’re keen to add regular exercise to your routine, but unsure where to start, seeking guidance from an accredited exercise physiologist can help provide you with some reassurance. The University of WA’s student-led Exercise & Performance Centre’s MediSwim aquatic exercise program incorporates strength and aerobic training that is designed to help people manage their type 2 diabetes, or, for people who are at risk of diabetes, it can reduce their risk of developing the condition.
“Evidence recommends that patients with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes accumulate a minimum of 210 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise or 125 minutes per week of vigorous intensity exercise,” UWA exercise physiologist Ben Kramer says.
“Our goal is to assist the participants in meeting this target, and the pool provides a comfortable weight supported environment in which we can start to work towards this, as it reduces the barrier to exercising at higher intensities.”
Ben says the classes incorporate swimming, water running and light resistance movements that use equipment such as pool noodles and paddleboards to provide a challenging class that is tailored to meet the exercise goals of the individual, which are established during an initial assessment.
“The program also involves a structured assessment process, including a DEXA Scan (bone density) and health coaching session, to set a baseline for the patient and help them establish some goals to pursue,” he says.
“The initial assessment process also gives us the opportunity to screen and discuss any concerns one may have when joining the program.”
While the sessions are led by students undertaking their Masters of Clinical Exercise Physiology, each session is
supervised by an accredited exercise physiologist (AEP).
“(The students) already have an undergraduate degree with some background in exercise science or sports science,” Ben says.
“Early on in their Masters course, they develop a strong theoretical understanding of what is required to illicit a positive response through exercise in patients with type 2 diabetes.
“When they arrive on placement, it is their chance to apply the knowledge they are already equipped with. The AEP on site assists with the planning of the class making sure it will be clinically effective and then also attends all sessions to help run it as required, and to ensure it is both safe and clinically effective for all participants in the class.”
UWA accredited exercise physiologist Conor Boyd, who is involved in running and overseeing the MediSwim sessions, says they have seen many of their patients benefit from the program.
“We have seen patients show reduction in weight, improvements in quality of life and physical function,” Conor says.
“We have a number of great doctors who refer to our clinic for management of patients with diabetes, and as such, many patients already have great control over their blood glucose, their goals shifting towards reducing risk of future complications resulting from comorbidities.
“We tend to see improved glycaemic control, as well as improvements in cardiovascular health and body composition. This results in an improved capacity to manage the condition, as well as a reduction in many comorbid risk factors associated with type 2 diabetes.
“This occurs due to improvements in insulin sensitivity and insulin dependent glucose uptake, as well as increases in muscle capillarisation and blood flow. This in turns means lower blood glucose levels, improvements in daily tasks, reduced risk of peripheral neuropathy and improvements in secondary conditions such as osteoarthritis.”
The social aspect of the MediSwim program is another drawcard for participants.
“Although MediSwim is an exercise class, within the UWA EPC there is an emphasis on creating a community feeling where clients can support each other and make friends,” Conor says.
“MediSwim is a place where we want to foster an enjoyable and sustainable exercise choice for our participants.”
The team at the UWA Exercise & Performance Centre are offering an exclusive discount for Diabetes WA members looking to join their MediSwim program. If you book in for an initial assessment and decide to undertake the program, you will receive five free sessions. GP clearance may be required before booking in for an assessment. Medicare or private health rebates may apply. For more information, call 6488 3333 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.