There are a plethora of diabetes exercise programs out there to choose from. The main thing is that you choose one and that you ingrain it so deeply into your lifestyle that it becomes a permanent and consistent habit over the long term.
There is no one king of diabetes exercise programs. An exercise program that couples cardiovascular and resistance training is ideal for diabetics and non-diabetics alike. Exercising consistently lowers your blood sugar levels, so coupled with a proper diet should be the cornerstone of your long term lifestyle plan.
A proper diabetes exercise program should make your diabetes more manageable. Over the longer term it may even mean you are able to lower or stop taking certain diabetes medications. The health benefits of exercise should be obvious to anyone, but for diabetics it lowers insulin resistance and lowers the chances of long term complications associated with having diabetes.
It is important that you get the OK from your medical doctor before you commence any rigorous exercise program.
How does exercise effect my blood sugar?
When you exercise your body calls on additional energy or glucose from your blood. Exercise sees your muscles and liver release glucose that is burnt off for your bodies fuel. It is important to note that your blood sugar levels may continue to drop hours after you have completed your exercise routine,.
Before exercising you should check your blood sugar levels. They should neither be too high or too low. Exercising lowers your blood sugar levels, if you exercise for a prolonged period it maybe prudent to check your blood sugar levels during your workout. Keep some jelly beans or other sweets close to you when you exercise in case of hypoglycemia.
Benefits of exercise
The benefits of a long term diabetes exercise program should be obvious to anyone. In case you are not familiar with the health benefits here are a few of the main benefits –
- It burns extra body fat. This is a key determinant when it comes to managing your diabetes. Losing excess weight has many additional health benefits including looking good and feeling great.
- Helps your blood sugar stay in your target range
- It lowers your blood pressure. Having diabetes and high blood pressure is a death sentence. Exercise offsets both of these conditions.
- Makes heart disease and strokes less likely.
- Helps your body utilise insulin and may make your type 2 diabetes go into remission.
- It strengthens your muscles and bones
- It improves your energy and mood via the release of endorphins in the brain.
What is the ideal diabetes exercise program?
There is no ideal exercise program for diabetics but it is important to combine cardiovascular exercise with resistance or strength training. As a third pillar to your exercise regime you could also add stretching such as yoga to your routine as well. All three of these types of exercises have significant benefits on the body. The good thing about exercise is that anyone can do it anytime, anywhere in the world. You can do it while you are at home or you can do it while you are in the great outdoors. Joining a gym may make a lot of sense for someone that is looking at ramping up their overall level of exercise.
Personally I am a member of a gym and I try to go at least 4 times per week. Sometimes if I cant make it I will make up for it by going for a walk or a jog or even a swim in the summer months.
Hypoglycemia and Physical Activity
This is very important. Rigorous exercise increases the chances of hypogycemia especially for type 1 diabetics. It is important that you check and monitor your sugar levels and have sweets or a sports drink near by in case of an emergency. If you experience hypoglycemia during or after exercise treat it immediately the same as you normally would. Ensure that your sugar levels have stabilised before you continue exercising.
One time I went for a jog with very low blood sugar without realizing it. Mercifully there was a convenience store that was open on a Sunday and it was very close by otherwise i am not sure how things would have gone.
Which diabetics should not exercise?
I am of the belief that only those who are physically incapacitated have an excuse for not exercising, that goes for people of all ages. If however you have any of the following complications you should seek medical advice before exercising –
Very high blood sugar levels – especially if ketones are present in the blood. Strenuous exercise should be avoided and medical advice sort for this condition. You may experience coronary distress if you exercise to strenuously. Please see my article on diabetes and ketoacidosis
Proliferative diabetic retinopathy – anyone with this condition should avoid strenuous exercise in particular lifting weights and exercise that require short, sharp bursts of energy eg sprinting. For more information on complications with the eyes please see this blog post
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy – exercising when you have lost sensations in your feet can lead to a host of potential problems. Please see my blog post about this condition.
Kidney or heart diseases – exercise needs to be undertaken under strict guidelines from your doctor. Here is a post about diabetes and the kidneys
Always consult with an exercise or health care professional before beginning any fitness program.
As with any behavioral change it is important to focus on one step at a time. Habits are not formed overnight. Change takes time. Focus on changing one behavior at a time. It is important that you start an exercise regime and you do your best to stick to it. You can reward yourself along the way for taking action. I can guarantee that after a while (some say 90 days) of taking action it will seem more normal and easy to exercise than it is to not.
Please also see my post on diabetes exercise guidelines to follow
Please let me know below about any diabetes exercise programs that you undertake…