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Exercise to manage Gestational Diabetes this World Diabetes Day

With diabetes one of the fastest growing chronic conditions in Australia, today marks World Diabetes Day, a campaign aimed to put diabetes in the spotlight globally.

Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) wants to educate the Australian public on the benefits of regular physical activity when managing diabetes, with a high importance placed on how to safely and effectively manage diabetes.

“Regular exercise has a direct effect on those living with diabetes and many are not aware of this fact. Exercise can reduce the risks of developing diabetes, as well as make symptoms more manageable for those already diagnosed,” says Anita Hobson-Powell, ESSA Chief Executive Officer.

This year, the focus of World Diabetes Day is on the women who live with diabetes, as the International Diabetes Federation reports that there are currently 199 million women living with diabetes, with this figure expected to rise to 313 million by 2040.

For women in particular who develop Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM), management of the condition to keep blood glucose levels in a normal range is imperative to the health of both the mother and baby during pregnancy and labour.

Carly Ryan, Accredited Exercise Physiologist, explains that between 5% and 10% of women develop gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) during pregnancy, usually around the 24th – 28th week.

“Typically, women will have no symptoms, and most are diagnosed after special blood tests.  GDM typically goes away after the baby is born but it is important to manage it whilst pregnant for the health and safety of both the mother and the baby.”

Regular physical activity is an important part of GDM management, as well as eating healthily to maintain a normal blood glucose levels. As long as there are no other specific medical conditions, a woman should be perfectly fine to exercise during pregnancy.

“Exercise doesn’t have to be vigorous, moderate intensity exercise can help to regulate blood glucose levels. Regular walking and swimming are ideal forms of exercise to undertake when pregnant and you should be exercising to a point where you notice a slight increase in breathing and heart rate, but you shouldn’t be huffing and puffing,” continues Ms Ryan.

“Anything that makes you move more is good for your diabetes and also for your overall health and wellbeing. It’s never too late in your pregnancy to start increasing your activity levels!”

Always discuss your plans to start increasing your physical activity levels with your obstetrician or midwife to rule out any further cause for concern or to be made aware of any medical issues.

If you are concerned about how to exercise safely, or not sure where to start, an Accredited Exercise Physiologist will be able to take your pregnancy and any complications into consideration and advise you on how to exercise safely, supporting yours and your baby’s health during your pregnancy.

To locate your local accredited exercise professional, click here.

To find out more about World Diabetes Day, here.