Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes, has etched a prominent place in our collective health psyche. According to the World Health Organization, the number of people who have type 2 diabetes grew from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014—a 290% increase over 34 years, or roughly one generation. To put that in perspective, it’s likely that your parents or grandparents may not have known anyone who had type 2 diabetes when they were younger, while you or your children may know several. Think about that.
Type 2 diabetes is caused by many factors, including lifestyle and genetics. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, people are more likely to develop this form of the disease if they aren’t physically active and are overweight or have obesity. Additional weight may cause insulin resistance and is common among people who have type 2 diabetes.
A 2019 study from Frontiers in Endocrinology found that the global age-standardized point prevalence and death rates for type 2 diabetes were 5,282 and 18.5 per 100,000, an increase of 49% and 10.8%, respectively, since 1990. The global disability-adjusted-life-years (DALY) rate saw a 27.6% increase during that same time frame. A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed data from 10,647 people who died from COVID-19 between February and May 2020. It was discovered that 40% had diabetes (the report did not indicate type 1, type 2 or gestational).
While the numbers add up to a stark truth, here’s an important caveat: In many cases, type 2 diabetes can be prevented or well-maintained with a healthy lifestyle, and fitness professionals are experts in this realm.
See also: Diabetes & Exercise: What Every Fitness Professional Should Know
“Diabetes can be successfully prevented and managed by a healthy lifestyle,” says Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, WHO general director. “When not managed, it can lead to severe organ damage and death.” Fitness professionals can help people who are living with type 2 diabetes, or who have been diagnosed with prediabetes, to improve their health outcomes with physical activity and, in some cases, nutritional coaching (with the right credentials).
If a client is prediabetic, there’s an important grace period where the right programming and coaching might turn the tide. If clients have type 2 diabetes, you can let them know that being active makes the body more sensitive to insulin and also helps control blood sugar levels. Additional benefits of exercise for people who have type 2 diabetes include healthy weight maintenance, stress reduction, better sleep, improved memory and better blood pressure control. In fact, losing just 5 to 10% of your body weight can improve A1C, the 2 to 3 month average of blood sugar levels. While nutrition is a primary driver of weight loss, adding exercise allows for greater outcomes. The CDC recommends a goal of at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity.
IDEA Health & Fitness Association has been educating the industry for four decades, and we are as invested in helping people avoid type 2 diabetes and thrive as you are. We also have an expansive content library and a proven commitment to helping fitness professionals succeed.
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