Exercise helps everything. To ask does exercise help diabetes seems absurd. Only the sick or injured should not undertake at least 40 minutes of exercise at least 4 times per week. Exercise is crucial in managing your weight and can help lower insulin resistance.
A proper exercise regime should be the cornerstone of any diabetics lifestyle. The list of benefits you will gain by exercising is astounding. Before undertaking any new exercise regime it makes sense to consult with a medical professional who can assess your ability to exercise.
Does exercise help diabetes?
A consistent exercise program can improve the blood sugar levels of any diabetic. It can also help manage your weight, the amount of medication you need (including insulin) and lessen the chances of developing complications in the future, including heart disease.
How does exercise lower blood sugar?
Exercising makes your body work harder. It raises your heart beat and makes you breathe harder. Your muscles will naturally use more glucose in the blood stream as it is converted into energy. If you are a type 2 diabetic any insulin that your body is still producing will be utilised more effectively by your body when you exercise.
The benefits of exercise
There really is an endless list of potential benefits you will experience when you begin to exercise. For diabetics it helps you make the most out of any insulin that a type 2 diabetic is still producing. It also makes your body leaner and stronger and is great for you heart. Exercise also reduces stress and lowers your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Exercise has also been known to improve your mood and make you look and feel great.
What you need to do before starting a diabetes exercise program
- Firstly and arguably most importantly, you need to speak with a medical professional or your diabetes healthcare professional before you begin.
- Decide what kind of exercise you will undertake. Will it be strength, aerobic or stretching? Ideally a successful diabetes exercise program should incorporate all three of these.
- If at all possible you should try and find a partner to exercise with. This partner should help to motivate and inspire you and also hold you accountable if your motivation and exercise levels slip.
- Keep track of your progress on your exercise program. You can do this with entries into a diary.
- Please see my additional posts about specific diabetes exercise programs and the guidelines to follow
Be careful if you are a type 1 diabetic
If you are a type 1 diabetic you are no doubt aware of the risks of hypoglycaemia. Low blood sugar can kill you instantly so you should ALWAYS carry some sweets or packets of sugar when you exercise as it can save your life.
What is the best kind of exercise for you?
Any kind of physical activity will be good for you. You need to determine just how strenuous your physical activity is going to be. You can make this choice after consulting your healthcare professional. Remember you are looking to exercise for a minimum of 40 minutes per session at least 4 times per week.
Aerobic exercise uses your large muscles and gives you a very good cardiovascular workout. Generally you will be breathing harder and breaking into a sweat from aerobic activity. Light aerobic activity will mean that you are not pushing your body too hard at all. It will be light and relaxing. Vigorous aerobic activity will mean that you are pushing your body quite hard. You will be breathing heavily and exerting yourself fully. Aerobic activity will include things like going for a walk, dancing, swimming. running, hiking, football, basketball, tennis, rowing.
Strength training primarily is used to build strong healthy muscles and increased bone density. The important point to remember is that the more muscle that you have, the more fat that you will burn even when you aren’t exercising. Everyone should incorporate some form of strength or resistance training into their weekly exercise regime. Again you can choose from light to vigorous strength training. It can involve any form of lifting weights be it hand weights, barbells, elastic bands or machine weights.
Stretching exercises are also exercises that should be undertaken on a weekly basis. They can be of most benefit when performed before strength or aerobic training to ensure that your body remains injury free. You can also incorporate a single stretching routine into your weekly workout by trying something like Yoga which balances the mind, body and soul. Through stretching and proper breathing you will find that your body is better able to relax.
Extra tips for exercising
There are numerous things you can incorporate into your life to add a little bit of extra exercise into your life. Examples of this include –
- Walking home from work or walking to the shops if you would generally drive
- Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
- Park further away from the shops so that you have to walk some extra distance.
- Stretch or do other exercises such as sit-ups whilst watching TV
- Do extra household chores such as gardening or cleaning
Diet is the other crucial part of the puzzle.
When it comes to managing your weight and your diabetes overall it is important to balance a proper exercise regime with a healthy eating one. There are many articles on this blog about the best diet for diabetes but the number one resource I recommend for people that may lack some motivation or inspiration in the kitchen is this resources as it was written by a type 2 diabetic who is a 5 star chef. The recipes are nutritious and delicious and there are countless testimonials from type 2 diabetics who have reversed their diabetes by following the recipes. Please go here for further information.
Exercise should be a foundation lifestyle choice that everyone makes whether you are a diabetic or not. The list of benefits is overwhelming and it makes you feel and look great. Coupled with a proper diet, a proper exercise regime will have you managing your weight and your diabetes quite well. It is important to consult your healthcare professional before embarking on any vigorous exercise regime.
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