Exercises for diabetes: What is best for your health?
Exercise is key to effectively managing your diabetes and is often an area that gets neglected. In addition to keeping you in good physical health the Mayo Clinic indicated that it can also help you to better manage blood sugar levels.
There are many important considerations when exercising with diabetes — but it doesn’t have to be so complicated. Let’s take the mystery out of exercise and diabetes.
Benefits of exercises for diabetes
The Joslin Diabetes Center emphasized that regular physical activity is very important for people with diabetes. It helps improve cardiovascular health and it can also lower blood glucose levels.
Exercise lowers your blood sugar in two ways. It increases your insulin sensitivity so your cells can use the insulin that’s in your bloodstream to absorb glucose (which can be used as energy) and it stimulates a second mechanism that helps your muscles absorb and utilize glucose.
Exercise lowers your blood sugar immediately and over time it can help you maintain a lower average blood sugar level or A1C.
Frequency and intensity of exercise
The American Diabetes Association recommended that you exercise often: Try not to not allow more than two days in a row to pass without physical activity. The organization also suggested that you get up and move every 30 minutes during more sedentary periods.
The ADA said individuals should try and complete a minimum of two and a half hours of moderate to vigorous activity per week — activities such as swimming jogging brisk walking or water aerobics — and two to three sessions of resistance exercise per week. This includes exercises that use weights or body weight (think push-ups) to strengthen your muscles. Flexibility exercises such as yoga and stretching should also be part of your routine.
Specific exercises for diabetes
Strive for a balance of these three types of exercises in your routine:
- Resistance training. Using body weight exercises machines or free weights during two to three sessions per week can build muscle strength.
- Aerobic exercise. Get moving for at least two and a half hours per week. Brisk walking swimming jogging cycling and water aerobics are all examples of aerobic activities.
- Stretching. Incorporating some stretching into your routine can help you stay flexible and pain-free. Yoga pilates or basic dynamic stretches are all good options.
What to consider when exercising with diabetes
According to the Mayo Clinic you should first get your doctor’s approval before beginning a fitness program.
It’s best to check your blood sugar about 30 minutes before you exercise. If your blood sugar is between 100 and 250 mg/dL you should be able to exercise safely. If it’s outside that range check in with your physician before exercising especially if it’s higher than 250 mg/dL.
Carry a carbohydrate source (glucose tablets or gel) when exercising and be on the lookout for low blood sugar symptoms like feeling weak shaky or confused. The Mayo Clinic also recommended checking your blood sugar every 30 minutes during exercise that lasts longer than half an hour. If you experience low blood sugar symptoms or your blood sugar is lower than 70 mg/dL you should stop exercising and eat or drink something with about 15 to 20 grams of fast-acting carbohydrate.
Don’t shy away from exercise out of concerns over your blood sugar. Stay smart — and always check with your doctor before starting any new routine.
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