How Exercise Helps Control Diabetes?

No doubt you’ve heard about the benefits of exercise (read more), but if you have diabetes, or are at risk for diabetes, exercise plays an especially important role in keeping you healthy. Regular exercise helps lower your blood sugar levels, and control your diabetes.

Benefits of exercise

Regular exercise improves your body’s sensitivity to insulin and helps manage your blood sugar levels. Moreover, exercise also helps you burn body fat and maintain a healthy weight, which is important as many people with type 2 diabetes are at risk for obesity. Exercise can also help people with type 2 diabetes avoid other long-term complications, particularly heart problems. People with diabetes are prone to developing blocked arteries (arteriosclerosis), which can lead to a heart attack. Exercise helps maintain blood pressure and good cholesterol, which helps avoid arteriosclerosis.

There are other benefits of exercise, that can help improve your diabetes management:

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Cuts bad cholesterol (LDL) and raises good cholesterol (HDL)
  • Reduces risk of heart disease and stroke
  • Reduces stress
  • Boosts energy and mood
  • Strengthens muscles and bones

Exercise safety

Before beginning an exercise routine, discuss with your doctor to be sure the exercise you choose is safe and suitable for your type of diabetes. Start gradually, especially if you have not been physically active for a while. Here are a few more safety tips:

  • Check your blood sugar before and after exercise, to be aware of how your body responds to exercise.
  • If you have fluctuating or high blood sugar levels, it is best to avoid exercise until your blood sugar has settled.
  • Drink a lot of water before, during, and after exercise to avoid dehydration.
  • Always keep a small carbohydrate snack, such as a fruit or glucose tablets, in case, your blood sugar gets low.
  • Wear a medical alert ID band, that says you have diabetes. Always carry a cell phone.
  • Wear comfortable, proper-fitting shoes and socks to protect your feet. People with diabetes should avoid foot injuries, because they can be slow to heal and are prone to infection.
  • If you are very short of breath, dizzy, or have chest pain, stop exercising. Inform any problems you experience to your doctor.

Types of exercises to do

There are three main types of exercises: aerobic, strength training, and stretching. Aim to have a good balance of all three.

Aerobic exercises

Aerobic exercise is a continuous exercise that makes your heart beat faster and makes you breathe harder. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that people should not go for more than two consecutive days without some aerobic exercise. Doing an aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week, has many benefits. Walking is undoubtedly one of the best activities for people with type 2 diabetes. Swimming is also great because it does not put pressure on your joints. To get the most out of your activity, exercise at a moderate to vigorous level.

Aerobic exercises include:

  • Walking briskly or hiking
  • Jogging or running
  • Climbing stairs
  • Swimming or a water-aerobics class
  • Dancing
  • Riding a bicycle or a stationary bicycle
  • Taking an exercise class
  • Playing basketball, tennis or other sports

Strength training

Strength or resistance training involves repetitive exercises with free weights, weight machines, resistance bands or one’s own body weight, to build muscle strength. It helps build muscle mass and keeps your bones strong and healthy. When you have more muscle and less body fat, you’ll burn more calories, which can help you lose extra weight. Moreover, muscles use the most glucose, so if you use them more, you will be able to control your blood sugar levels much better.

Try to do strength training two to three times per week. Begin with a light weight, and gradually increase the size of your weights as your muscles become stronger.

Stretching exercises

Stretching exercises provide light or moderate physical activity. It boosts your flexibility and improves how well your muscles and joints work. Stretching, after other types of exercises, reduces muscle soreness and helps your muscles relax.

Yoga is a type of stretching that focuses on your breathing and helps you relax. It includes fluid movements that build flexibility, strength, and balance. Yoga can help reduce stress, lower body fat, fight insulin resistance, and improve nerve function, which helps people with type 2 diabetes.

Exercise regularly to be fit!