Diabetes and exercise need to be thought of together. People who suffer from Type I or Type II diabetes can benefit from regular exercise. I’m going to focus on Type II diabetes because it accounts for over 90% of all diabetes cases.
The three most important tools used to control diabetes are diet, exercise, and medication. All three of these components must be incorporated into the lifestyle of someone with diabetes. Healthy eating and/or taking medication alone will not successfully control blood sugar levels. Regular exercise is equally if not more important.
Many people with Type II diabetes fail to realize how much exercise can help with their struggle to lower blood sugar levels. During and for several hours after exercise, extra energy is expended by the body. As a result, excess sugar is removed from the blood and blood sugar levels are reduced. This effect can last as long as 18 to 24 hours after an exercise session.
Regular exercise also helps people reach and maintain a healthy body weight. Being overweight often results in the body’s cells becoming resistant to insulin. If healthier habits are not practiced, this resistance can lead to further weight gain. This often leads to Type II diabetes as well as other health problems. Combining regular exercise with a healthy diet not only helps to control Type II diabetes, it can also help to prevent it from ever developing.
What Kinds Of Exercise?
When considering diabetes and exercise, you should consider physical activity that raises the heart rate for twenty to thirty minutes and is performed on a regular basis. This means aerobic exercises such as walking, jogging, aerobic dance or bicycling. If you have problems with the nerves in your feet or legs, your doctor may want you to do a type of exercise that won’t put stress on your feet. These exercises include swimming, bicycling, rowing or chair exercises. If you are a diabetic, be sure to consult with a physician before beginning any exercise program.
Special Concerns for Diabetes and Exercise
Legs and Feet – Talk either with your physician or a diabetes educator about how to prevent and treat any sort of injury to your legs or feet. As a diabetic, the circulation in your extremities, especially the legs, is reduced. Therefore, a diabetic is more prone to infection and injury of the feet and legs. This should not prevent you from beginning an exercise program, but it is an important fact to always keep in mind.
Carry ID – In case of an emergency, be sure to always wear or carry something that identifies you as a diabetic, especially when exercising.
Carry Carbs – While exercising, it is possible, even with non-diabetics, for blood sugar levels to drop too low. Be sure to take some quick-acting form of sugar with you when you exercise such as glucose tablets or gel, Life Savers® or fruit juice.
Test Your Blood – You should get into the habit of testing your blood sugar level before and after exercising. By doing this regularly, you will become familiar with what levels your body is normally at during these times. This will help alert you to extreme levels (too low or too high) in the future.
Diabetes and Exercise checklist
- Talk to your doctor about the right exercise for you
- Check your blood sugar level before and after exercising
- Check your feet for blisters or sores before and after exercising
- Wear the proper shoes and socks
- Drink plenty of fluid before, during and after exercising
- Warm up before exercising and cool down afterward
- Have a carbohydrate snack handy in case your blood sugar level drops too low
- Exercise with a friend that understands your special needs as a diabetic if possibleIt is important for diabetics to keep their abilities as well as limitations in mind when designing an exercise program. The few special steps that diabetics must take before exercising should not outweigh the crucial benefits they receive from exercise. Diabetes and exercise do go together.