Updated: 1/6/2019 | January 6, 2019
With over 4 million people playing pickleball in the US, we know many of those players are professionals in their respective fields. One of those experts in the healthcare field is my friend, Ernie Medina Jr., who has a long list of credentials; one is Assistant Professor, Center for Lifestyle & Nutrition at Loma Linda University, School of Public Health in Loma Linda, CA. Another credential he holds is being an addicted pickleball player. Love that! So, I had read one of the articles Ernie had shared with the pickleball community, pickleball with diabetes, and I asked if he’d summarize it for us. He said YES – so learn and share. I hope you find it as interesting as I do.
Diabetes is a serious disease, leading to blindness, amputations, kidney failure, and death. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 30.3 million Americans have diabetes, and 90% of these have Type 2 diabetes (T2D). What is even more troubling is that 84.1 million Americans are “pre-diabetic”, and 90% of these folks don’t even know they are pre-diabetic. T2D is different from Type 1 diabetes (T1D), in T1D, the pancreas does not make any insulin, so they need special medical care and guidance and it’s not about preventing or reversing insulin resistance. This post focuses on the lifestyle-related Type 2 diabetes.
“According to the World Health Organization, the number of people with all forms of diabetes rose from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014.”
How can dinking defeat diabetes? To answer this, one needs to understand how T2D develops. When we eat food, it’s digested and turned into blood sugar. The body senses that normal rise in blood sugar and signals the pancreas to release insulin into the blood stream along with the sugar. The sugar is needed fuel for the cells, so in order for the sugar to go into the cells, the insulin acts like a “key” to unlock the doors to the cells, thus letting the sugar in. When one starts to develop T2D, the insulin keys can’t seem to unlock the cell doors. It’s like the keyholes get “plugged up” so the insulin keys can’t go into the keyhole. This is called “insulin resistance”, and as more keyholes get plugged up, blood sugar levels rise and eventually, one becomes a type 2 diabetic. What plugs up the keyholes in the first place? There are many factors, but the two main factors are physical inactivity (sedentary lifestyle) and unhealthy eating habits.
How does physical activity like pickleball help to defeat diabetes?
There are two main reasons how:
#1 When you are active and using your muscles of your whole body, you automatically open the cell doors even if the keyholes are still plugged! That is why I recommend all pre-diabetics and T2 diabetics to go for a short walk or move after each meal.
#2 Regular physical activity helps to decrease plugged keyholes, i.e. it helps to reduce insulin resistance! Reversing insulin resistance is the key to reversing T2D. It takes time to plug up keyhole, so it will take time to reverse this process. That’s why pickleball is the perfect medication for T2D!
Pickleball is addictive, so people will take their “pickleball T2D medicine” on a regular, almost daily basis. It uses whole-body muscles, from head to toes. It’s a low-to-moderate intensity exercise so those who are most likely to be pre-diabetic or diabetic can take up the sport easily. And it’s fun and social so it helps taking this kind of medication. It’s easy to take on a regular basis for the long term. All of these factors make pickleball the best diabetes medication one can take for life because it is something that you have to keep doing if you want to avoid T2D.
So next time you’re out there on the pickleball courts, just remember that with every dink, you’re defeating diabetes. YES, defeating diabetes by dinking with pickleball!