Exercise is medicine for kids with type 1 diabetes

Keeping count of daily steps and boosting physical activity can really pay off for children with type 1 diabetes, according to new research from the University of Adelaide and the Women’s and Children’s Hospital.


Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) Executive Officer Anita Hobson-Powell said with National Diabetes Week taking place between 10 and 16 July across Australia, the findings provided a timely reminder for both type 1 diabetes patients and the broader population to get active.

For the first time, researchers have shown that children who have type 1 diabetes can improve their cardiovascular health, simply by taking an extra 1000 steps a day.

The results – published online ahead of print in the journal Diabetes Care – show that those who undertook additional physical activity showed improvements in their blood vessel structure, and other reductions in risk factors for heart disease.

These results echo the message of Alex Lawrence, Accredited Exercise Physiologist and Industry Development Officer.exercise right for condition5

“It is really important that children living with type 1 diabetes get enough exercise. In addition to just staying fit and healthy, exercise is a great tool to facilitate good glucose control, via improvements in insulin sensitivity” says Mr Lawrence.

“People living with type 1 diabetes are also susceptible to arteriosclerosis, which has strong links to cardiovascular disease. Mild to moderate exercise has been proven to protect against the development of atherosclerosis.”

According to the research led by Dr Alexia Peña from the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Research Institute and Paediatric Endocrinologist at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, “Children with type 1 diabetes often report lower physical activity levels than recommended for children of the same age”.

The findings emphasise “the importance of physical activity for children, and the need for advice on the benefits of exercise for children with type 1 diabetes. The more steps they do, the better,” Dr Peña states in the research findings.Little dudes_Down syndrome

“In the children who had extra physical activity, we also saw reductions in weight, blood pressure, and trigylcerides, which indicates an overall reduction in risk of heart disease.”

The results also signal the important role that exercise and Accredited Exercise Physiologist led interventions can play in the treatment of chronic illness in children.

“Children are unique to any other population group because of the many years they have ahead of them, the impact that an intervention can have is profound and the quality of their life can be significantly improved with the right exercise advice,” Ms Hobson-Powell says.

Recent reports suggest that 80% of children are not getting enough physical activity, this is especially concerning if this statistic carries through to children that have an existing health condition. Whilst encouraging children to exercise can be challenging, there is support available.

“An Accredited Exercise Physiologist is able to create novel and fun ways to exercise, as well as engage the child in their own care, with parental support” says Mr Lawrence.Little dude_heart disease

“The better we can be at establishing the habit of exercise early in life, the better chance we have of these individuals growing into healthy adults that take care of themselves, their medical conditions and have fewer medical complications associated with their condition,” says Ms Hobson-Powell.

“We cannot underestimate how important it is to get exercise right from the beginning. The future health of our children can be significantly affected by how exercise is approached.”

If your child has a medical condition or has been identified at being at risk of developing a medical condition and you are concerned about how this may impact their life now and in the future, in particularly their ability to be physically active, it is important to see an Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) for the most up-to-date evidence based advice.


To get in touch with an Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) who can create a customised exercise program for you and your family or to find out more tips for incorporating physical activity into your day, click here.


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