I have always been very passionate about the prevention and management of chronic disease, such as type 2 diabetes, through physical activity. My curiosity in understanding the state of health and disease, as well as the mechanisms behind the benefits of exercise, motivated me to pursue an academic career in Kinesiology and Health Sciences (BA), Exercise physiology and Metabolism (MSc), and finally a PhD in Medical Sciences (specializing in Endocrinology). With my background in both fitness and medical sciences, I ventured into the world of health promotion as a Professor, teaching others who share my passion for promoting a healthy lifestyle!
I am always eager to help others get involved in regular physical activity, and my own family is not an exception. Both my parents have always found it difficult to stick to an exercise routine, this was especially true after my father suffered a stroke and my mother’s deteriorating health, including type 2 diabetes, resulted in poor balance. I began to look for something that would allow them to safely and effectively take part in an activity that would result in health benefits plus was something that they would enjoy doing. And then I found it… Urban Poling!
Urban Poling, also known as Nordic walking, is essentially walking with specialized poles (such as the fitness series Urban poles or the ACTIVATOR poles). What first intrigued me about this activity is that unlike walking, which uses about 40% of our muscles, urban poling results in activation of 90% of muscles! When using the poles we engage our core muscles, shoulders, arms, all leading to an increase in caloric expenditure. Furthermore, urban poling is an all-in-one cardio plus strength training. When I read the research around this activity (now there are over 100 research studies reporting various health benefits), my training kicked in and I immediately saw the huge potential for not only my parents, but also for anyone looking to engage in physical activity to prevent or manage chronic disease. More specifically, urban poling is an excellent form of exercise for the management of blood glucose, and an ideal alternative for those with diabetes.
When my parents started using the ACTIVATOR poles I was amazed at the change in their approach to fitness. They significantly increased not only the number of walks they took, but also the duration, which over time has resulted in much improved health parameters; my mother’s diabetes is under control and her blood glucose has stabilized within the normal range. To my delight, they went from being two adults wishing to be more healthy, to two happy adults making the most out of every step they take… through urban poling. Witnessing their journey has been a key driving factor for my decision in aligning myself with Urban Poling Inc.
It is the commitment to customers, the expertise and passion for health education and promotion, as well as the poles and technique that motivate me to stand behind Urban Poling as the Director of Health Communication. However, it is my personal passion for helping others achieve their own triumph over diabetes, to experience a similar transformation as my parents, which drives me.
Thank you for reading my story.
Dr. Agnes Coutinho
Here is something for those interested in a simplified explanation on how exercise effects blood glucose (blood sugar):
Among many health benefits of regular physical activity, there are 2 separate mechanisms by which exercise helps us keep blood glucose within a healthy range.
First, when you contract your muscles, you activate the cells in those muscles to take up glucose from blood and use it for energy – without the need of insulin, the hormone which normally allows the cells in our body to absorb glucose for energy. This action of taking up glucose without insulin, happens only in the muscles that are being activated (e.g. when you flex your arm it is the muscles in your arm that will be activated). The more muscles you use during any activity, the more cells will be activated and more glucose can be taken from blood. This helps our body lower blood glucose in the short term. An example of a fantastic activity to do this is Urban Poling, which uses 90% of your muscles.
Secondly, regular physical activity increases insulin sensitivity (again in the muscles that are being used). The more sensitive cells are to insulin, the better they will be at responding to insulin (this is good!). It is essential for all cells to respond to insulin in order to take in blood glucose for energy and to survive. When you exercise regularly, your cells will become more sensitive to insulin, this will be a long term effect of regulating your blood glucose.
Taken together, both the acute and chronic effects of exercise effect blood glucose regulation, as well as benefit both our physical and mental health in general. By being physically active on a regular basis you can protect yourself from pre-diabetes, you can prevent the onset of full diabetes if you have pre-diabetes already, and you can help manage your blood glucose if you have type 2, type 1, or gestational diabetes*.
*For those taking insulin, physical activity is an excellent way to help control blood glucose if you already have diabetes, but it is essential to remember that you may need to adjust your level of insulin injections, to prevent hypoglycemia (low levels of blood glucose).