If you've struggled to find the time or motivation to exercise regularly, starting a workout regimen can be a bit intimidating—especially if you're managing diabetes. To help you get started, here's what you need to know about diabetes and exercise, including tips and suggestions so you can get moving today.
Get the Go-Ahead from Your Heath Care Team
Before you start any physical activity program, you should always check in with your health care team. Finding the perfect balance between activity, food, and medication is a critical component of managing diabetes and exercise. It is important to ease into exercise if you've never been active or haven't been active for some time. Typically, activities such as walking are fine for most people with diabetes, but if you're unsure, consult with your doctor about your plans to start exercising more frequently and ask for advice. There may be certain exercises you should avoid.
Monitor Your Blood Sugar Levels
Your blood glucose (blood sugar) response to exercise can vary based on a number of different factors, including your blood glucose level prior to physical activity, the intensity of the workout, the length of the workout, and any modifications you've made to your medications. You should become familiar with how your blood glucose responds to different physical activities. Check your blood glucose level frequently before and after exercise to see how your body reacts to different workouts and levels of intensity. Based on your observations, your health care team will work with you to keep your blood glucose level in a safe range.
Keep Your Heart Healthy with Aerobic Exercise
Aerobic activity helps the body use insulin more efficiently, and it also relieves stress, improves blood circulation, and reduces your risk of developing heart disease. Whether it's an easy jog, a brisk walk, dancing, hiking, climbing stairs, or riding a bike, aim for 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise, five days per week, and avoid going two days in a row without exercising.
Strength Train to Build Muscle
In addition to aerobic activity, perform some type of strength training at least two times per week. You can strength train using weight machines, free weights, or resistance bands. You can also lift household objects or do push-ups, sit-ups, or squats. Strength training helps maintain and build muscle and lowers your blood glucose levels. Building muscle tissue also helps you burn more calories, even when you are at rest.
Be Safe and Avoid Injury
Exercise holds enormous benefits, but on the road to a healthier you, it is important to follow certain precautionary measures:
- Start slowly and proceed gradually to prevent unnecessary injuries and to stay motivated.
- Avoid activity in extreme temperatures.
- Hydrate throughout your workout.
- Give yourself five minutes before and after exercise to stretch, warm up, and cool down.
- Check your blood sugar levels.
- Carry a source of carbohydrate with you.
- Wear a medical identification bracelet indicating that you have diabetes.
- Wear comfortable shoes to avoid foot injuries.
- Stop immediately if you have any pain or shortness of breath, or if you feel light headed.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Diabetes and Physical Activity
American Diabetes Association, Get Started Safely
American Diabetes Association, Exercise and Type 1 Diabetes
American Diabetes Association, Fitness: What We Recommend