What is diabetes and how can I reduce my risk?

Diabetes Awareness Week

In 2015, 71% of men, 56% of women and 27% of children were found to be overweight or obese in Australia. Each and every one of these Australians are at  increased risk of developing heart disease, cancer and diabetes. In Australia diabetes is listed as a contributing or underlying factor in 10% of all deaths.

Chronic conditions like diabetes are now considered a prominent barrier to childhood development by the World Health Organisation. This was not the case at the start of the millennium.

Are you at risk?

The risk of developing diabetes increases with the following factors:

  • as you age,
  • if you have family members who have developed diabetes,
  • if you have previously had high blood sugar levels,
  • if you do not include fruit and vegetables into your diet everyday,
  • if you do not engage in 2.5 hours of physical activity every week,
  • if you smoke,
  • if you take medication for high blood pressure and
  • if you are overweight.

What exactly is Diabetes?

The food that you eat breaks down into glucose (a form of sugar), fat and protein and all are essential to your body’s needs. Your body produces insulin which is essential in moving glucose from your bloodstream into your cells where it is used as energy. Diabetes is a condition that is caused when your body no longer produces enough insulin, or any at all. This results in high levels of glucose remaining in the bloodstream and often not enough in the cells, which can cause many complications for your body.

Complications of diabetes include increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke, increased risk of developing kidney failure, increased risk of amputation, and increased risk of developing a mental health condition. Half of all people diagnosed with diabetes will experience mental health conditions including depression or anxiety.

How can I reduce my risk of developing Diabetes?

You can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by reducing the amount of food you eat, reducing the amount of fat and sugar in your diet, including fruit and vegetables in your diet, reducing your alcohol intake and participating in exercise. Exercise can improve your glycaemic control which decreases your risk of developing heart, kidney and eye diseases, improves your life expectancy and reduces your risk of developing a disability including blindness and amputation.

Everybody benefits from regular exercise. If you have diabetes, or are at risk of diabetes it plays an important role in keeping you healthy.

For a person with diabetes exercise helps:

  • Insulin to work better, which will improve your diabetes management
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Reduce your risk of heart disease
  • Reduce stress.

It is recommended that you engage in at least 150 mins of physical activity every week or 30 mins 5 days per week to reduce your risk of developing chronic conditions including diabetes. For people who are diagnosed with Type II diabetes it is recommended that they engage in 210 mins of exercise per week. So prevention is better (by 60 mins/week) than the cure!

If 30 minutes is not possible, then try dividing the time into 3 x 10 minutes sessions. If you need to lose weight, 45-60 minutes every day. You can break up short amounts of exercise throughout the day.

A physically active lifestyle has been associated with a 9% decreased risk of developing Type II diabetes with every 500kcal/week increase in physical activity. For an 82kg person to burn 500 calories it takes approximately 50 mins of cycling, 35 mins of jogging, 100 mins of pilates, 47 mins of swimming and 71 mins of walking.

Including both aerobic and resistance training is most effective at improving your glycaemic control than only engaging in one type of training.

You do not need to huff and puff to gain the benefits of exercise. Aim for moderate intensity. This means you should still be able to talk as you exercise without becoming breathless.

If you have any diabetes complications such as retinopathy, nephropathy, you should talk to your doctor or an accredited exercise physiologist before you start increasing the intensity of your exercise.

Here at Melbourne Osteohealth, we run Exercise Classes by Marissa, our Accredited Exercise Physiologist. Marissa has a special interest in exercise for patients with Diabetes Type I & II and also helps people who are prediabetic make healthy long lasting changes to their lifestyle.


Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports-data/health-conditions-disability-deaths/diabetes/overview

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/overweight-obesity/a-picture-of-overweight-and-obesity-in-australia/contents/summary

Bird, S. R., & Hawley, J. A. (2017). Update on the effects of physical activity on insulin sensitivity in humans. BMJ open sport & exercise medicine, 2(1), e000143. doi:10.1136/bmjsem-2016-000143

Kelso, T. Twenty ways to burn 500 calories. https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/20-ways-to-burn-500-calories

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