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Role of Exercise in Managing Diabetes

Engaging in regular physical activity may actually have more benefits than you realize. Engaging in regular physical activity benefits those with diabetes and those at risk for the condition by improving blood sugar levels and heart health and also helping to manage weight. 

As a good rule of thumb, people with diabetes should partake in moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day. 

Along with the benefits stated above, physical activity also:

Exercise should be a mix of both cardio/aerobic exercise and strength training. Strength training includes lifting weights, using elastic exercise bands, or using assisted weight machines. Aerobic exercises are great for your heart and include brisk walking, jogging, swimming, biking, or playing sports. Stretching is something to add in daily to improve your flexibility and prevent injuries. 

Here are some safety tips you should consider:

  1. Speak with your doctor before starting new exercise. 

  2. Avoid low blood glucose (blood glucose lower than 70 mg/dL)

    • Always test your blood glucose before and after you exercise 

    • Have at least 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates with you to treat low blood glucose (ex. Glucose tablets, juice, raisins, etc). 

  3. Know what happens to your blood glucose when you exercise 

    • Make sure you check your blood glucose before and after you exercise 

      • This is advised because some people can have “low blood glucose awareness.” This is when your blood glucose drops below 70 but you do not feel any symptoms. 

    • What if you exercise longer than 30 minutes?

      • Longer and more intense exercise can cause your blood glucose to drop more compared to a shorter or easier exercise. Because of this, it would be a good idea to carry carbohydrates with you, especially after 20-30 minutes of intense exercise. 

Here are some simple ways you begin moving more often: 

  1. Plan active weekends 

  2. Take the stairs instead of the elevator

  3. Parking farther away from the store or your office, or getting off your bus or subway one or two stops early

  4. Get up from your desk during the day to stretch and walk around 

  5. Take a brisk walk for 10 minutes before lunch

  6. Go for longer walks with your dog

If you are new to exercising, try asking your gym if they offer introductory personal training sessions. This way you can ease your way into exercising with some expert guidance! 

Exercise routines will look different for everyone. It could be a dance class with your spouse, a daily walk during your lunch break, or signing up for a 5K race and training with a friend. Find something that brings you joy. No matter what type of physical activity you choose, it will help you control your blood sugars and help you enjoy a healthy lifestyle for years to come. 

Resources

https://www.diabetes.org/fitness

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-importance-of-exercise-when-you-have-diabetes

https://www.bd.com/resource.aspx?IDX=10241

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