How biokineticists can assist with exercise in Type 1 diabetes

We learn more about the role of biokineticists in exercise and Type 1 diabetes.

What is a biokineticist?

Biokinetics is a profession that focuses on promoting health and well-being by means of scientifically-based exercise prescription.1 It involves many areas, including: orthopaedic and neurological rehabilitation, health promotion, chronic disease management and sporting performance. As biokineticists, we promote an active lifestyle to prevent non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, by enhancing muscle strength, endurance, cardiorespiratory fitness, and flexibility.  A biokineticist will improve your physical functioning and educate you on how you can live your life through movement.2

Understanding diabetes

Diabetes is characterised by a sustained elevation in blood glucose. Type 1 diabetes specifically is caused by an autoimmune dysfunction which disrupts the pancreas and its ability to produce insulin.3 Insulin is a key hormone which acts as a gatekeeper between your blood vessels and muscles. Insulin is required for muscles to absorb the glucose circulating in your bloodstream.

Without insulin, blood glucose levels elevate beyond normal levels, which has negative effects on our biology, particularly the cardiovascular system. Type 1 diabetics supplement their insulin levels with injections administered at strategic times throughout the day.

Function of exercise in diabetes

The primary reason for exercise in the management of diabetes is to improve glycaemic control. In conjunction with diet and medication, exercise can reduce the risk of diabetes-related health complications.3

A biokineticist will perform a personalised evaluation and assign an exercise prescription that will help improve your glycaemic control, in turn aiding cardiovascular health and increasing life expectancy.3 Your biokineticist will ensure that you are exercising safely and meeting your personal goals.

Principles for exercise

There are various principles that biokineticists use to ensure that exercise is prescribed correctly. These include frequency, intensity, time, and type.1

  1. Frequency: This is how often you exercise during the week. Studies show that 3-7 days of aerobic exercise and 2/3 days of resistance exercise is recommended.
  2. Intensity: This is either how moderately or vigorously you exercise. It is calculated using a rating of perceived exertion (RPE) scale. This scale ranges from 1-20. 1 being no discomfort to 20 being unbearable. Aerobic exercise can be performed moderately (11-12 RPE) to vigorously (14-17 RPE). Resistance exercise can be performed moderately and vigorously using a percentage of your 1 repetition maximum, which your biokineticist will calculate.
  3. Time: This is how long you exercise for. Your biokineticist will recommend at least 150 minutes a week for moderate exercise to 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise. Resistance training uses repetitions and sets. It is encouraged to do 8-10 exercises with 10-15 repetitions and 1-3 sets.
  4. Type: The type of exercise is important. Your biokineticist will give you aerobic exercises, like swimming and cycling, and resistance exercises, such as lifting weights or using resistance bands.

Where to find a biokineticist?

Biokineticists are found in private practice, gyms, or wellness centres. Head over to the BASA website to find a biokineticist near you.


1.Biokinetics Association of South Africa. (2021). What is a Biokineticist? Retrieved from Biokinetics SA – Life through Movement :

2.Ellapen, T. J., Strydom, G. L., Swanepoel, M., & Hammill, H. V. (2018). Biokinetics: A South African Health Profession Evolving from Physical Education and Sport. Sport and Exercise Science, 15-27.

3.Riebe, D., Ehrman, J. K., Liguori, G., & Magal, M. (2016). ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. Tenth Edition. Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer.

Written by Stephanie Irons (Biokinetics Intern at Rob Evans Biokineticists) on behalf of The Biokinetics Association of South Africa (BASA).

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