Exercise to Manage Diabetes

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Regular exercise is one of the most important things you can do to manage and live well with your diabetes.

It can also help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes from developing, improves your body’s sensitivity to insulin and helps manage your blood sugar levels.

How does it do that? During exercise, active muscles use up glucose as a source of energy instead of it building up in your blood stream.

The problem is, many people do not get enough as modern living has removed much of it from our daily lives.

The Canadian Diabetes Association states that adding more physical activity to your day is one of the most important things you can do to help manage your diabetes and improve your health.

Did you know?

  • Low physical fitness is as strong a risk factor for mortality as smoking
  • Fitness level is one of the strongest predictors of all-cause mortality in people with diabetes
  • Physical activity can be as powerful as glucose-lowering medication with fewer side effects
  • Exercise, in conjunction with healthy eating and weight control, can reduce type 2 diabetes incidences by 60 per cent

How do you get started? 

Remember to keep your safety in mind. If you haven’t been active in a while, speak with your doctor about starting a new program. Your medication and nutrition may need to be altered when you introduce physical activity.

It is important to choose an activity you enjoy, because you’ll be more likely to stick with it. Make sure it raises your heart rate; improving your aerobic fitness will help you manage your blood sugar level.

Walking is always a great place to start:

  • An easy place to start since we do it every day
  • Been shown to improve blood pressure, cholesterol, stress, and depression
  • Can help to promote weight loss and reduce your risk for other chronic diseases like heart disease and dementia
  • Something you can do with others – creating accountability
  • Safe and generally risk-free form of physical activity
  • Easy to continue with – there are many places you can do it

When you begin, find a comfortable pace and aim for at least 30 minutes of brisk walking, five days a week.

To advance your routine, seek help from a personal trainer. They can introduce interval training to vary your cardio, as well as get you familiar with strength training using your own body weight, resistance bands, machines or free weights. They will focus on injury prevention, and results to progress your training.

It is also important to see the affect exercise has on your blood sugar levels. It can vary depending on how long you workout and the intensity. Check your blood sugar before and after your exercise to see the benefits and also how you react to different forms of activity. This can help you prevent your blood sugar from getting too high or too low.

When you are first starting, workout with a friend who knows about your diabetes and what to do if your sugars get too low, or keep a small carbohydrate snack with you.

Just like taking your medication, it is important to make a habit out of exercising to manage your diabetes, or reduce or remove the risk of developing it all together.

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