Diabetes & Exercise

You've heard it a million times: Exercise is really important, especially if you have diabetes. But even if you know it's true, sometimes it takes more than that to get motivated.

Get Fitter and Stronger

With diabetes, a daily dose of fitness belongs in your treatment plan. Jason Baker, MD, endocrinologist, New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, describes exercise as a drug. "When your muscles contract, they take in glucose to use for energy, which lowers your blood sugar temporarily," says Baker. "Exercise also helps you lose weight and makes your body respond better to insulin, which lowers your blood sugar over the long haul."

If you aren't already active, you need exercises that work for you. Here are some tips to start a routine and stick to it.

Talk to the Doc

Ask your doctor or nurse what activities are best for you and how intense they should be.

Cranking up the treadmill or hitting the heavy weights right away isn't a good idea if you haven't exercised in a while, or ever. It might even be dangerous. If you take insulin or other diabetes medication, physical activity may make your blood sugar drop too low.

And if you have any other health problems from diabetes, like heart disease, nerve damage, or eye problems, there might be some types of exercise you should not do.

Make a Plan and Be Accountable

Chart out a routine -- the days, times, and length of your workout sessions. Keep a log of your exercise and your blood sugar levels, too.

That will help you track your progress and see how your workouts are making a difference. You can start to see patterns, like days, times, or types of exercise that work better for you.

But don't set goals you know you can't meet. Doctors recommend 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity almost every day, but you don't have to find time to do it all at once. Break it up into 10 to 15 minute sessions.

Start Slow

Being active doesn't have to mean lacing up new sneakers and signing up for a marathon. Start with a single step. Walking is less strenuous and safe for most people with diabetes. From there, you can work your way up to more intense exercise.

  • Do some jumping jacks or get up and stretch during TV commercial breaks.
  • Walk around while you talk on the phone.
  • At work, skip the elevator and take the stairs.
  • Park at the far end of the parking lot and walk.
  • Stretch your chores -- take two trips to the garage to unload groceries instead of one.
  • Walk for 15 minutes before you head out for your job. Do anything that you enjoy and keeps you moving.
  • Add in some strength training to build muscle. "Muscle is one of the most sensitive tissues for taking up sugar," said Baker.

WebMD Medical Reference, Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on November 1, 2019

12/16/2020 9:23:05 PM
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