Exercise and Diabetes

Why Regular Movement is Vital to Your Health

Do exercise and diabetes go hand in hand? Can exercise be harmful? Did you know that, when living with diabetes, your activity level is just as crucial as your diet — and even as important as your medication? It’s true! Exercise has a ton of benefits. In fact, the American Diabetes Association recommends you get your heart pumping five times a week. In the long run, regular exercise can even lower your A1C!

The number one reason to exercise regularly is to improve your insulin sensitivity. A combination of aerobic and strength training helps your muscle cells more efficiently use any available insulin and take up glucose both during and after activity. PLUS, when your muscles contract, the cells can use excess glucose for energy whether insulin is present or not — meaning lower overall blood sugar levels when you workout consistently. 

Additional Benefits Include:

  • Increased energy and endurance throughout the day
  • Weight loss with increased muscle tone
  • A healthier heart and lower blood pressure
  • Better sleep at night
  • Stronger bones and a lower risk of osteoporosis
  • Better resistance to illness
  • Improved cholesterol and heart rate
  • Lower stress, anxiety, boredom, frustration, and depression

Where Do I Start?

If it seems daunting to fit 150 minutes of moderate exercise into your week — start small. Aim for 10 minutes of activity per day and increase over time. Focus on activities that get your heart rate up, make you breathe harder, and work for multiple muscle groups at once. 

You don’t need a gym membership to get moving. Some options to try include:

  • taking a brisk walk
  • doing housework, yard work, or gardening
  • yoga
  • dancing
  • swimming
  • bicycling
  • playing sports
  • ice skating or rollerblading
  • playing a game of tag with your kids or grandkids

Find some activities you enjoy and do them as much as possible — and don’t forget to stretch to avoid injury and ease soreness. 

Precautions to Consider

First and foremost, it is imperative that you speak with your healthcare provider before starting any fitness routine — we cannot stress this enough! Your doctor will make sure it’s safe for you to exercise and help you find and prepare for the best activities for you. 

Aerobic exercise can suddenly lower your blood sugar, especially if you take insulin — while strength training can have the opposite effect. It’s essential to monitor your glucose levels to better understand how your body responds to exercise and prevent complications. 

If your blood sugar is below 100 mg/dL before exercising, you may need to eat a small snack. If it’s above 240 mg/dL, your blood sugar may be too high for you to exercise safely. 

Drink plenty of water while you work out to stay hydrated. Wear cotton socks and shoes that fit well and are comfortable. After your workout, be sure to check your feet for blisters, cuts, sores, or other injuries and irritations — and see your doctor if you have any wounds that don’t begin to heal after two days. 

When to be Concerned

Stop exercising and call 911 immediately if you have any of these symptoms during, or even several hours after, exercise:

  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Chest discomfort
  • Jaw, arm, or upper back discomfort
  • Nausea
  • Unusual shortness of breath
  • Sudden weakness
  • Severe or unusual fatigue or sleepiness
  • Severe discomfort of any kind

We hope we’ve inspired you to get moving! Regular exercise works wonders to lower your blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure for a happier, healthier you. What are some of your favorite activities to get your heart pumping? Let us know in the comments below!