Diabetes and Exercise

Exercise is an important part of any treatment plan. It is well known that exercise helps boost the overall fitness, keep the blood sugar under control as well as reduce the risk of any heart disease or stroke. But you should consult your doctor first whether you are fit for exercise, especially if you have led a sedentary life. It is also important to check the glucose levels in blood before, during and after exercise. This will help you prevent any possible complications. Keep reading and learn which exercises are most suitable for you.

How Does Exercise Help with Diabetes?

Diabetes and exercise work great together. Exercise will help you:

  • Lose weight and even maintain a healthy weight.
  • Lower the risk for type 2 diabetes.
  • Increase the amount of glucose that your muscles use for energy. This means that if you do exercise regularly you will have lower levels of glucose in the blood.
  • Reduce the amount of insulin you need to take.
  • Control blood pressure.
  • Lower the risk for heart diseases.
  • Lower the bad cholesterol and raise the good cholesterol.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Improve sleep quality.
  • Reduce the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety.

The Best Exercises for Diabetes

The relation between diabetes and exercise is beyond doubt now, but you should talk to your doctor first before starting exercise. He/she will need to check the health of your heart, which is especially important if you have high blood pressure or any blocked arteries. Other complications arising from diabetes needed to be considered are neuropathy or retinopathy. You can also get the help of a diabetes educator or even an exercise physiologist who can create an exercising program based on your medical history and overall health. They can tell you which exercises are suitable. Always be realistic about your goals and don’t expect miracles. If you have not exercised in the last couple of months, sometimes even years, you can’t start immediately with intensive exercises. Instead, take one step at a time and start increasing the intensity of the activity gradually. 

1. Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise is a kind of physical activity that uses large muscles of your body. It will also make you breathe faster and have a faster heartbeat as well. First, start with about 5 to 10 minutes a day and then increase it gradually. Aerobic exercise is recommended for 30 to 60 minutes a day a couple of days a week. There are different aerobic exercises available so you can choose whatever suits you best. Try hiking, climbing the stairs, walking briskly, and dancing. You can also ride a bicycle outdoors or even ride a stationary bicycle indoors, swim, play tennis, basketball or other sports you like, take an exercise class, do water aerobics, etc.

2. Strength Training

Diabetes and exercise go well together. Strength training will help you build up your muscles and keep your bones healthy. While doing strength training, you will burn up more calories. If you do strength training regularly, you will reduce your body weight. Strength training is recommended two to three times a week and it includes elastic bands, weight machines, hand weights, etc. You can do strength training on your own at home or you can even join a strength training class at a fitness center. Start with light weights and increase the amount of your weights gradually.

3. Stretching Exercise

If diagnosed with diabetes, stretching exercises are recommended. They are light to moderate physical activity. Yoga, for example, is a type of stretching exercise. When you do stretching exercises, regardless of what kind of stretching exercises you prefer, you will increase your flexibility, lower the stress and prevent sore muscles.

4. Add Extra Activity to Your Daily Routine

Change your daily routine and avoid having a sedentary life. Do not spend those hours in front of a computer or TV. Instead, go for a walk around the neighborhood, walk while talking on the phone, do chores, take the stairs instead of taking an elevator, walk instead of driving whenever you have a chance to do so, etc. Regardless of what you decide to do, it is better than just sitting at home. Be realistic about how much extra activity you can handle. Don’t start intensively. Instead, take smaller steps but make sure that it enters into your daily routine.

Precautions When You Exercise

Since diabetes and exercise match well, some diabetic patients often wonder how often they should exercise. It is recommended to exercise about 30 minutes at least 5 days a week. Start exercising in moderate intensity. Here are some precautions to keep in mind.

  • Drink plenty of fluids while exercising in order to be good hydrated.
  • Measure the levels of glucose in the blood before, during and after physical activity. Do not exercise if your levels of glucose in the blood are very high.
  • While exercising, make sure to wear cotton socks and athletic shoes. Take a good care of your feet and check for any blister, sores, irritation, cuts or any other types of injuries.
  • Physical activity can lower the levels of glucose in the blood, making you hypoglycemic. Be aware of hypoglycemia and pay attention to its signs and symptoms. You might feel weak, shaky, hungry, tired, sweaty or even confused. Sometimes, you can even lose your consciousness. 
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