Diabetes: The role of exercise and diet in preventing diabetes

The whole month of November is dedicated to creating awareness about Diabetes. It has become a major concern because even children and teenagers (mostly overweight) are being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. This is a major cause for concern and a wakeup call for everyone.

According to the WHO, 422 million people in the world are living with diabetes. 5 million of these people are in Nigeria. Nigeria has the highest rate of Diabetes in Africa. Every 19 minutes, someone is diagnosed with diabetes and every 20 minutes someone is amputated because of diabetes.

According to medical news today, a Greek physician Aretus the Cappadocian named the condition of patients who were passing too much urine like a siphon “diabeinein”

In ancient China it was called “Sweet urine disease” because the sweetness of urine of people with diabetes attracted ants to it.


Diabetes is when a person’s blood sugar is high. This could be because the body’s cells do not respond properly to insulin or because the insulin level is inadequate. Insulin is a hormone that is produced in the pancreas. When you eat carbohydrates, insulin allows your cells to use sugar from it for energy or to store it to use later. When the sugar enters your cells and is used adequately by your cells, your blood sugar drops. Your body turns it into glucose and it enters your blood stream. Insulin moves the glucose from your blood to your cells where it is needed.

In diabetes, the body may not produce insulin or it may not produce enough to transport glucose to the cells. Eventually, it leads to too much glucose floating around in the blood. It is then passed out in urine. The glucose in the urine makes it sweet.

There are 3 types of diabetes:

  • Type 1- in type 1 the body does not produce insulin
  • Type 2- in type 2 the body does not produce enough insulin
  • Gestational diabetes- affects pregnant women and in most cases disappears after birth


Causes of diabetes

  • Overweight and obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Belly fat : people with abdominal obesity are at the risk of developing diabetes


Symptoms of diabetes



  1. Frequent urination: Sometimes when the weather is too cold, it could lead to frequent urination but when it is urgent and consistent irrespective of the weather, morning, afternoon and night, it might be best to see your physician.
  2. Weight loss: Diabetes may cause unexpected weight loss. It might be sudden or gradual. If you are experiencing weight loss without any change in lifestyle, you may want to see a Doctor. According to Mayo clinic, when you lose water and sugar in urine, you lose calories and this can lead to weight loss.
  3. Blurred vision: This is caused by the fluid in your eye being pulled away by the high level of sugar in your body. This may progress to blindness if diabetes is not detected on time and it progresses.
  4. Unexplained weakness: This may be due to your body losing more water and your body cell not being able to make use of sugar properly
  5. Nausea
  6. Hyperventilation
  7. Cuts and wounds that are slow to heal
  8. Frequent thirst
  9. Dry mouth
  10. Tingling sensation, numbness or pain in your body especially the hands and feet which may be caused by nerve damage

Diabetes does not just happen, most times it may be present in the form of Prediabetes. This is when the blood sugar is going up and is no longer normal but not yet high enough to be called diabetes. This is also dangerous as it may also cause some damage to the body. Most people that are Prediabetic are unaware of it.

Maureen was having constant headache and urinated frequently at night. Within some minutes after urinating she will get extremely thirsty. She will urinate and become thirsty again. She decided to see the Doctor for her headache and for her eyes because sometimes she will feel as if a thin film was covering her eyes.

When the result came out, her blood pressure was high and she was Prediabetic. Her Doctor recommended exercise and healthy nutrition as part of her treatment. Today, her sugar level is normal.

Can diabetes be prevented – Yes?


Diabetes can be prevented using the three step approach:




Weight loss                      Healthy nutrition

Experts now agree that exercise, a healthy weight and a healthy nutrition can prevent and control diabetes.



Exercise lowers your blood sugar because when you exercise your body uses the glucose in your body as fuel. This lowers your blood sugar.  Exercise also improves your body sensitivity to insulin. Aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes every day. Join a gym, go for a long walk, jog, play volleyball, dance. Do something active that will increase your heart rate and breathe rate. Aerobic exercise is good but so is strength training. Lift weights, do plank, do pushups.  Just get up. Climb the stairs, march in place, jog in place, just move.

For you to enjoy the benefits of exercise and use it as a preventive measure or management measure, you have to make it a lifestyle. In other words, it has be consistent. If you stopped working out, you stand the risk of losing the benefits of the exercise and its impact on your blood sugar within a week. Even if you do not wish to lose weight, regular exercise makes your body more sensitive to insulin.

Lose weight: There are certain factors that may put you at risk of diabetes. Having excess body fat is one of them. This does not mean that only overweight people develop Type 2 diabetes. Slim people develop it too. It just means that being overweight increases your risk of developing diabetes.  Use the BMI Table to find out if your weight is within the normal range. Maureen was weighing 105kg when she learnt she was Prediabetic. Her blood sugar became normal when she lost 10kg. She is still my client and she is still on her weight loss and healthy lifestyle journey. A weight loss as little as 2-5kg will improve your overall health significantly.

Eat healthy:

The importance of healthy nutrition for total health and wellbeing cannot be neglected. To prevent diabetes you have to take control of your kitchen and fridge. If you are desperately hungry and you cannot find junk food in your kitchen and fridge, but instead find carrots and apple, what will you do? You will eat what is available.  If you had seen a bottle of soda drink, you will gulp half of it down before tearing open the packet of whatever junk you can lay your hands on. You have to make a choice and an effort to help yourself. Everything you put inside your mouth on a daily basis is working in your body. What you have been eating will go a long way in determining what kind of finished work you may expect.


FOOD GROUPS                    TO EAT                             TO AVOID
Protein Fish, Poultry, mixed nuts, All beans, moin- moin, eggs, skimmed milk, Processed meat
Carbohydrate Oatmeal, millet, whole meal bread, water yam White rice, White bread, Pasta
Vegetable Lettuce, cucumber, broccoli, bell peppers, pumpkin leaves, water leaf, okra
Fruits Garden eggs, Apples, carrots Fruit juice, canned fruits, fruit syrup
Fats and oil Olive oil, walnuts, Avocado Saturated fat and hydrogenated fat

The food you can eat are not limited to the list, you will work with your Doctor to add more or remove some.

It is better to prevent diabetes but what if you already have diabetes? Here are some steps to take to help yourself:

  1. You have to plan your meals. Make sure to eat a well-balanced meal. This will be a good time to learn portion control. You have to pay attention to the type of carbohydrate and fruits you chose. There are some carbs and fruits that immediately spike your blood sugar. You have to avoid them. Choose foods and fruits with fiber as these will help to stabilize your blood sugar. Avoiding sugar sweetened beverages and added sugar will be a good thing if you want to lower your blood sugar.
  2. Exercise: The energy your body needs to do exercises come from the sugar in your body. Exercise can help your body use excess sugar efficiently
  3. Follow your Doctor’s advice and recommendations



This information can only help you when you put them into practice. I want you to get up and start doing something for your health every day. Start now, by adding more live foods to your meals, make half of your plate at each meal vegetables. Find a gym where trainer can help you with an exercise program for your goal. Remember to see your Doctor to find out your health status.


Diabetes: The role of exercise and diet in preventing diabetes

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