Does Exercise Really Help People with Type-1 Diabetes?

From various health gurus I’ve heard two different stories: 1) That people with type-1 diabetes should not exercise and 2) That they should. One side says exercises will suck up energy they need for healing. The other argues that exercise helps circulation and they should get as much as they can.

Over the last ten months I’ve been observing the body oxygenation levels of people with type-1 diabetes. We’ve been evaluating this using the DIY breathing test created by Dr. Konstantine Pavlovich Buteyko. Not only does it measure how well blood vessels deliver oxygen to the cells. It also measures how well blood circulates in the body.

A definite pattern I’ve noticed: People who have type-1 diabetes and don’t exercise intensely score around 10s on the test (about 15% tissue oxygen levels). Those who do exercise daily score closer to 20s (33% tissue oxygen levels). Neither is great, but it’s obvious, so far, that those who exercise more are doing better.

Exercise burns oxygen and produces CO2. CO2 dilates blood vessels and facilitates the release of oxygen from hemoglobin. So exercise is great?  Well, it depends. We’ve all heard stories of joggers dropping dead with a heart attack and weightlifters hemorrhaging.

In his 1969 Moscow State University Lecture, Dr. Konstatine Buteyko said: “…you can walk or run, but with deep-breathing (i.e. to reduce carbon dioxide below the norm), and what shall we get? The same fainting, asthma attacks, stenocardia, dizziness, etc.”

In other words, if one over-breathes during physical exercise their CO2 levels may actually get lower than if they weren’t exercising. This could lead to worsening the complications of type-1 diabetes while raising blood sugar.

How do people over-breathe while exercising? Principally by breathing with the mouth and chest instead of their nose and diaphragm. It’s very difficult to lower your CO2 levels if you only use your nose to breathe while running, row-boating or carrying a refrigerator on your back.

Exercising with the mouth closed conditions your respiratory center to higher levels of CO2. So when you stop exercising you’ll breathe less to maintain those higher levels. Co2 dilates blood vessels. Since poor blood circulation seems to be at the root of every diabetic complication I can’t see how this would not be a boon to people with type-1 diabetes Indeed, almost everybody I’ve work with who have very low body oxygen levels suffer from poor digestion, delayed stomach emptying and some degree of kidney disease.

“Now take physical labor,” continued Dr. Buteyko. “It is a very powerful factor. Books are being published, titled: Running for Life, Jogging, etc. It turns out jogging [with the mouth closed] hampers breathing, intensifies metabolism and especially increases carbon dioxide. This is why they cure themselves.”

So my current conclusion regarding exercise: Exercise is great for people with type-1 diabetes as long as you keep the mouth shut for the entire workout.

Thinking outside the type-1 matrix,
–John C. A. Manley

P.S. My wife Nicole, under the instructions of an alternative health practitioner, experimented for 10 months with avoiding exercise. The results were devastating. In a future post, I’ll explain exactly what happened (subscribe so you don’t miss out). Until then you may wish to read this post about nasal breathing and type-1 diabetes: Close Your Mouth and Lower Your Blood Sugar

P.P.S. For more on how to improve blood circulation and avoid diabetic complications by combining proper breathing with physical exercise check out Patrick McKeown’s book The Oxygen Advantage: The Simple, Scientifically Proven Breathing Technique That Will Revolutionise Your Health and Fitness.

About the Author: John C. A. Manley researches and writes about alternative treatments for type-1 diabetes and its many complications. His wife, Nicole, of 15 years has had type-1 diabetes for four decades. Together they have lowered her HgbA1c below 5.5%, regained thyroid function, increased kidney function and reversed gastroparesis. Read more about their journey out of the T1D matrix or subscribe to their Diabetic Dharma blog..