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Covid: Exercise could treat long Covid-induced diabetes – even ‘walking slowly’ could help

Diabetes expert reveals rise of cases in children during pandemic

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Diabetes is a condition characterised by steep blood sugar levels. This happens because your body either can’t make insulin at all, doesn’t make enough or your insulin isn’t effective. As a result, your blood glucose levels can get dangerously high.

While some people can make a speedy recovery in weeks, others might struggle with symptoms of long Covid for a lot longer.

What’s worse, having long-term symptoms doesn’t depend on how severe your infection was.

People who have mild Covid can still develop persistent issues, the NHS explains.

When it comes to these long-term symptoms, the usual suspects are the likes of fatigue, brain fog and shortness of breath.

However, diabetes is also considered a long-term consequence of the virus.

Fortunately, research published in the journal Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews suggests it could be aided by physical activity.

Although there’s currently no medically-recognised treatment for long Covid, exercise could help “break the vicious cycle of inflammation that can lead to developing diabetes”.

Dr Candida Rebello, a research scientist at Pennington Biomedical Research Center said: “We know that Long COVID…can increase blood glucose levels to the point where people develop diabetic ketoacidosis, a potentially life-threatening condition common among people with type 1 diabetes.

“Exercise can help. Exercise takes care of the inflammation that leads to elevated blood glucose and the development and progression of diabetes.”

In the UK alone, it’s estimated that about 1.3 million people suffer from long Covid, a survey from the Office for National Statistics suggests.

The startling aspect of long-term symptoms is that they can be also experienced after only a mild infection.

“For example, a person may not get very sick from COVID-19, but six months later, long after the cough or fever is gone, they develop diabetes,” Dr Rebello noted.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

According to the NHS, the symptoms include:

  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Peeing more than usual (especially at night)
  • Feeling very tired
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Thrush that keeps coming back
  • Itching around your penis or vagina
  • Blurred vision
  • Cuts and grazes that are not healing
  • Fruity-smelling breath.

The health service adds that it’s crucial to see your GP if you experience signs like these.

What type of exercise can treat long Covid-induced diabetes?

The good news is there’s no need to push yourself to the limit and spend hours sweating.

Dr Rebello said: “You don’t have to run a mile or even walk a mile at a brisk pace.

“Walking slowly is also exercising. Ideally, you would do a 30-minute session of exercise.

“But if you can only do 15 minutes at a time, try to do two 15-minute sessions. If you can only walk 15 minutes once a day, do that.

“The important thing is to try. It doesn’t matter where you begin. You can gradually build up to the recommended level of exercise.”

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