Activity Can Help Control Diabetes

Being active is a great way to help control diabetes. Exercise helps lower your blood sugar. During physical activity, your body uses insulin much more efficiently than it does at rest. 

Exercise also helps you lose weight. Being overweight makes it harder for your cells to use insulin, and can lead to a condition called insulin resistance. Shedding extra pounds can help you control your glucose levels. Losing weight also helps you avoid other health problems, such as heart disease, osteoarthritis, and high blood pressure. Activity helps lower cholesterol, another risk factor for heart disease.

A regular exercise program may help some people with type 2 diabetes decrease or even stop oral medication use. Although some people are able to go off insulin by increasing physical activity, most people with type 2 diabetes who already take insulin will need to remain on insulin.

Regular physical activity can relieve stress; strengthen your heart, muscles and bones; improve your blood circulation; and keep your joints flexible.

What kind of activity is best for me?

Find out from your health care provider what types of exercise will be safe for you. The best approach is to start at your own pace and be realistic. If you are inactive, start by taking a brisk walk for 10 minutes a day. You can also try to be a little more active in the things you do every day. For instance, take the stairs, get off the bus 1 stop earlier or do chores in the yard or house. Ideally, you should build up to 30 to 60 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week. Your activity should include exercises that build strength and increase flexibility, such as gentle stretching, as well as aerobic exercise, which increases your heart rate and breathing. 

Should I take any safety measures?

Before and after exercising, measure your blood glucose level. Doing so will help you track the effects of exercise on your blood glucose.  

Your doctor can help you identify what your blood sugar level should be before, during, and after exercise. If your blood sugar level is either too low or too high before you begin to exercise, it is best to wait until your level improves. It is also very important to monitor your blood glucose when you exercise in unusually hot or cold conditions, since temperature changes affect how your body absorbs insulin.

Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, usually occurs slowly, so when you exercise, it's important to pay attention to how you are feeling. If you feel shaky, anxious, sweat more than usual, or have a change in your heartbeat, you should stop exercising and do what your health provider advises to treat low blood sugar.

If your blood sugar is less than 70, drink 4 ounces of fruit juice, eat 4 tablespoons of raisins, drink ½ cup to ¾ cup of nondiet soda, eat 5 pieces of hard candy, or take a few glucose tablets (5 grams each) to bring your blood sugar up. It is a good idea to eat a small snack, such as a piece of fruit, before exercising. Also, drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. If you notice any signs of low blood sugar, such as shakiness, during exercise, stop exercise and check your blood sugar level to make sure it has not fallen too low.    

There is no limit to the activities you can do. But to be safe, always talk with your doctor before you start an exercise plan. Then take 1 giant step into action.