Living with diabetes series
Why is Exercise Important in Diabetes?
It is the best thing you can do to manage your diabetes well
The three things that help you manage your blood sugar levels and maintain a healthy weight when you live with type 2 diabetes are diet, medication, and exercise. Being active also helps avoid diabetes complications like heart disease.
After my own diagnosis of type 2 diabetes in 2014, I took exercise seriously. It wasn’t as though I was not active, but there were days when I’d feel a bit lazy and skip it. When I learned the importance of exercise and the role it plays in blood sugar control, I simply determined to at least walk briskly for an hour every day. It became a non-negotiable.
Why the emphasis on exercise to manage diabetes?
It isn’t news that to stay healthy, exercise is a must. But for those with diabetes, it is mandatory.
Here’s what happens.
When you exercise, your body requires extra energy from glucose. The muscles that are active use more glucose than the muscles at rest. When muscles move, they use up blood sugar, lowering blood sugar levels. When you perform activities like running to catch that bus or run up the stairs, your muscles and liver provide the fuel by releasing glucose.
For moderate exercise levels for prolonged periods, the muscles use up to twenty times the glucose compared to normal activity. This lowers blood sugar. But if you are into intense exercise, blood sugar rises for a short period after you stop your exercise. Odd eh?
Other benefits of exercise are:
- Makes your body use insulin which controls your blood sugar
- You burn calories
- Your bones become stronger
- Your blood pressure stabilizes
- Your LDL or bad cholesterol is lowered
- Your HDL or good cholesterol rises to healthy levels
- Your blood circulation improves
- Your risk for heart disease and stroke is less
- You feel more energetic
- Exercise relieves stress
Now that you know you have to include exercise into your daily routine to manage your diabetes better, how to get started? For those not used to an exercise regimen, suddenly getting started can feel intimidating.
Here are some tips that might help you ease into exercise
- Pick something you enjoy doing. Choose an activity that steps up your heart rate as you exercise so that you build your stamina and your fitness while you help your blood sugar levels stay stable.
- Interact with your doctor. Discuss what you want to do to ensure it is safe for you. Depending on your present condition, you may need to rework your food habits and medication. If you are on insulin you may need to adjust that too.
- Monitor your blood sugar levels. Follow your doctor’s advice about how frequently you need to check them.
- Carry a snack with you to eat when your blood sugar gets too low.
- If you are not into exercise, start off with just 10 minutes at a time and slowly increase it so that you are comfortable at 30 minutes a day. Make it a habit to devote 30 minutes a day to your health.
- Buddy up with someone to exercise — not only is it motivating but gives you some sense of accountability. Also, you will have company. Don’t forget to carry identification that has your name, phone number and address!
- Look after your feet well. Wear comfortable shoes that fit well.
Regular physical activity helps control blood sugar and protects you from heart disease and nerve damage. So think of movement as daily medicine. It’s better to get some exercise on most days than to push yourself through a big workout just once or twice a week. If you’re stuck getting started:
- Begin with 5 minutes a day.
- When that becomes easy (and a habit), move up to 8 minutes, then 10.
- Increase gradually to 30 minutes or 10 minutes three times a day.
- Did you know housework counts as activity? Yes!
- Be active at home and outside.
- Spend less time on the couch, however tempting that may be.
You don’t need to go to the gym or have special equipment to stay active. A brisk walk is a great start. These days it is easy to join an online fitness class to keep you committed to your wellness.
The most important thing is to stay motivated.
In a majority of people diagnosed with diabetes, the main problem is the lack of diabetes education. The Living with Type-2 Diabetes series will cover various aspects of the condition with tips and suggestions to manage it better.
In this series so far:
The ABCs of Diabetes
Blood Pressure and Living with Diabetes
Does Dessert Have a Place in the Diabetes Diet
The Cholesterol-Diabetes Connection
The Diabetes Diet and Living with Type 2 Diabetes
Let’s Bust 10 Diabetes Diet Myths!
Disclaimer: The information in this post is purely for educational purposes only and does not substitute medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult your physician for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.
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