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Does Regular Exercise Benefit Someone with Insulin Dependent Diabetes (IDDM)?
Although regular exercise by the IDDM patient leads to reduced insulin requirements, overall glucose control is not improved. However, there are many other potential benefits from regular exercise, including improved control of cardiovascular disease risk factors, enhanced fitness, and elevated psychological well-being.
For nearly 50 years, researchers have known that regular exercise will reduce the insulin requirements of well-controlled IDDM patients by 30-50 percent. It appears, however, that each bout of exercise leads to an improvement in insulin sensitivity that lasts for only one or two days before falling back to pre-exercise levels.
In other words, the muscles need regular exercise to maintain an enhanced insulin sensitivity. The net result is that a given amount of insulin following exercise is more effective in causing glucose uptake by the cells. The IDDM patient who exercises regularly will need smaller-than-normal insulin doses, or will have to increase food intake.
Although regular exercise leads to reduced insulin requirements for the person with IDDM, studies have failed to show that long-term glucose control is improved, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). The ADA still feels that IDDM patients have much to gain from exercising regularly because of the potential to improve cardiovascular fitness and psychological well-being and for social interaction and recreation.