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How Physical Activity Can Protect Against Diabetes During COVID

written by Skye Sherman - May 17, 2021
medically reviewed by Dr. Christine Bishara, MD - Jun 9, 2021

Photo Credit: by CDC,
Photo Credit: by CDC,

We all know that exercise is a vital part of staying healthy and leading a balanced lifestyle. But there’s never been a more important time to keep up with our fitness, thanks to the pandemic.

Do you know why physical activity is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic? There’s a link between exercise, diabetes, and COVID that may surprise you. In this article, we’re going to explore how COVID may trigger diabetes in adults and young children—and how exercise may have the power to protect against negative COVID outcomes.

Regular exercise and COVID

Did you know regular exercise can help protect against diabetes and COVID? Even the New York Times stated in an article, “People who tended to be sedentary were far more likely to be hospitalized, and to die, from COVID than those who exercised regularly.”

The main reason for this is that exercise can boost immunity, and strong immunity can cut your COVID risk. It may also help to make the vaccine more effective and even protect against severe illness and death. With all the benefits of exercise, it seems silly to sit on the couch! There are ways to take a healthy nap, but you should only do so after fitting in some fitness.

The article continues, “More exercise means less risk of developing severe COVID, according to a compelling new study of physical activity and coronavirus hospitalizations. … those who had been the most active before falling ill were the least likely to be hospitalized or die as a result of their illness. … regular exercise — whether it’s going for a swim, walk, run or bike ride — can substantially lower our chances of becoming seriously ill if we do become infected.”

This is major news. Exercise is no substitute for a vaccine, of course, but it is a natural way to drastically improve your potential COVID outcomes. The people who are active rather than sedentary have much better outcomes after becoming infected with COVID.

Even better, physical activity can also protect against diabetes during COVID. That’s because, according to John Muir Health, “diet and exercise can delay diabetes. … a half hour of walking or other low-intensity exercise daily, combined with a low-fat diet, reduced the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58 percent.”

How exactly does exercise help?

According to a recent NIH article, there is increased blood flow and muscle fibers are activated during physical exercise. This stimulates the production of cytokine which act as cellular messengers for our immune system. These cytokines then in turn attract neutrophils, the components of our white blood cells that help to fight off infections. Moderate exercise may even be better than intense exercise because it is best at stimulating this type of cellular immunity.

You can see why exercise is important. It not only leads to better COVID outcomes, but it can also stave off diabetes and other chronic conditions. What you eat matters too. You don’t have to stick to bone broth and vegetables every day, but you should definitely eliminate your intake of junk food.

In the next section, we’ll explore the fact that COVID may trigger diabetes.

COVID may trigger diabetes in adults and young children

There is a lot we still don’t know about the coronavirus, how it works, and its effects, but there are a few trends that scientists and doctors have noticed over the past year or so. One interesting observation is that COVID seems to be able to trigger diabetes in some people who did not previously have diabetes.

An article in LiveScience shares, “Emerging data hint that COVID-19 can trigger diabetes in some people, although the exact reason remains unknown. Scientists around the world noticed an uptick in new diabetes cases last year and, in particular, saw that some COVID-19 patients with no history of diabetes were suddenly developing the condition.”

Researchers established a registry where doctors can submit reports about patients with a confirmed history of COVID and newly diagnosed diabetes, linking the two. Interestingly, both types of diabetes have been reported in the registry.

This includes both type 1 diabetes, in which “the body attacks the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, and type 2 diabetes, in which the body still produces some insulin, though often not enough, and its cells don’t respond properly to the hormone.”

In other words, it seems that COVID is linked to causing or triggering diabetes in both of its forms. Typically, it has been thought that one form of diabetes is something you’re born with and another is developed. However, in these cases, COVID seems to be triggering either type.

During the pandemic, there have been patients that either developed diabetes while having COVID or shortly thereafter. The virus seems to be able to cause a malfunctioning of sugar metabolism, linking COVID to diabetes.

For these reasons, you can see why exercise is all the more important during the pandemic.

Diabetes drugs and COVID

There are some things you should know about diabetes drugs and COVID. Many people who have diabetes rely on drugs to stay well in everyday life.

You can buy drugs like Rybelsus online. Rybelsus is a diabetes drug that is getting popular during COVID because of increased demand from physicians and patients for drug therapies that offer improved efficacy and compliance. Rybelsus contains semaglutide and can be used to lower blood sugar (also called glucose) in adults with type 2 diabetes. Rybelsus is an oral GLP-1 by Novo Nordisk.

While this drug is generally used for type 2 diabetes, it also aids in weight loss for those with obesity.

An article in Everyday Health explains, “A medication approved to treat type 2 diabetes may help people with obesity lose 10 to 15 percent of their body weight — an amount that healthcare professionals say could help reduce the risk for serious chronic illnesses. Semaglutide, sold under the brand names Ozempic and Rybelsus, helped most people with obesity in a clinical trial lose at least 10 percent of their body weight, and more than half of them reduced their weight by at least 15 percent.”

Disclaimer: We are not making any type of medical advice. You must consult with a doctor before taking Rybelsus or any other type of medication.

Still, if you are prescribed Rybelsus by your health care provider, you should know that ordering from an online Canadian pharmacy can be a convenient and hassle-free way to get the drugs you need delivered straight to your door.

Other physical activity or exercise tips

The main thing you need to keep in mind about exercise is that something is better than nothing. There will be many days that you don’t feel like working out. That’s why motivation cannot be the main factor that determines whether you exercise or not.

Instead, dedication and discipline have to be your driving forces. Make a vow to show up, every single day, no matter what else is going on in your life. It can be a great, hard, hour-long workout or just a short walk. The details don’t matter, but the dedication to showing up does.

Some days you will feel like having a major sweat session and other days you will be dragging yourself out for a walk. As long as you show up and get moving, you should feel accomplished. Even a brisk half-hour walk five times a week can be enough to ensure that you are staying active. Lead a lifestyle with activities and hobbies that get you moving, and it will never feel like work!

Want another way to make sure exercise doesn’t feel like work? Get active by doing something you love to do. Try gardening as a form of home fitness. You get to create something beautiful while you stay home and stay safe. Plus, you’ll get your blood pumping and getting your heart rate up is good for your health.

Avoiding the sedentary lifestyle is what is important, because it can come with a host of negative health effects. Stay active, get moving, and stay healthy, because it could be the difference between COVID, diabetes, and other health problems.



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