Diabetes is a chronic disease characterised by high blood sugar levels due to the body’s inability to produce or use insulin effectively. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 422 million people worldwide have diabetes, which is expected to increase in the coming years. Physical activity is essential to diabetes management and can benefit individuals. This article will explore the benefits of physical activity for diabetes, the recommended types, and tips for getting started with safe and effective physical activity.
Benefits of Getting Active With Diabetes
Physical activity is an integral part of diabetes management and has numerous benefits for individuals with this condition.
Here are some of the main advantages that come with engaging in physical activity for individuals with diabetes:
Improved Blood Sugar Control:
Physical activity helps to lower blood sugar levels by improving the body’s ability to use insulin effectively. The pancreas produces a hormone called insulin that controls the blood sugar level. When you exercise, your muscles consume more glucose to produce energy, which helps to decrease the amount of sugar in your blood.
Increased Insulin Sensitivity:
Regular physical activity can increase insulin sensitivity, so your body can use insulin more effectively to lower blood sugar levels. This effect can last up to 48 hours after exercise, making physical activity an essential component of diabetes management.
Reduced Risk of Cardiovascular Disease:
People who have diabetes are more likely to develop cardiovascular conditions, including heart attacks and strokes. Regular physical activity can help to reduce this risk by improving cardiovascular health. Physical activity helps to strengthen the heart and lungs, lower blood pressure, and improve cholesterol levels, all of which are important for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Improved Cholesterol and Blood Pressure Levels:
Physical activity can help improve cholesterol and blood pressure levels, two important risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Regular physical activity can lower LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) and increase HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol), which can help to improve overall cholesterol levels. Physical activity can also help to lower blood pressure, which is vital for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Physical activity is an effective way to manage weight, an essential aspect of diabetes management. Excess weight can make it harder for the body to use insulin effectively and increase the risk of other health problems, such as cardiovascular disease. Engaging in regular physical activity can assist in sustaining a healthy body weight. It facilitates weight reduction, leading to better general health and an enhanced sense of well-being.
Improved Overall Health and Well-being:
Engaging in regular physical activity can have a positive impact on the general health and wellness of people who have diabetes. By being physically active, individuals with diabetes can experience a decrease in stress levels, an improvement in the quality of their sleep, and an increase in energy levels. These benefits can all contribute to an improved quality of life. Furthermore, regular physical activity can lower the chances of developing other health issues often seen in people with diabetes, such as depression and anxiety.
Ways You Can Get Active With Diabetes
Being active is super important for managing diabetes. There are lots of different kinds of exercises that people with diabetes can do to feel better and be healthier.
Here are some of the most effective types of physical activity for diabetes:
Aerobic or cardio exercise involves any activity that increases your heart and breathing rates. Aerobic exercise includes brisk walking, cycling, swimming, dancing, and jogging. Aerobic exercise effectively improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood sugar levels, and manages weight. People with diabetes should strive to participate in moderate-intensity aerobic exercise for at least 150 minutes per week, which should be split across at least three days.
Resistance or strength training involves using weights or bands to build muscle and improve strength. Examples of resistance training include lifting weights, doing push-ups, and using resistance bands. Resistance training improves insulin sensitivity, weight management, and overall health and well-being. Individuals with diabetes should aim to engage in resistance training at least two days per week, focusing on all major muscle groups.
Flexibility and Balance Exercises:
Flexibility and balance exercises involve stretching and movements that help to improve flexibility, balance, and mobility. Examples of flexibility and balance exercises include yoga, tai chi, and Pilates. Flexibility and balance exercises are essential for reducing the risk of falls, improving mobility, and reducing stress. Individuals with diabetes should aim to engage in flexibility and balance exercises at least two days per week.
It’s crucial to seek advice from a medical professional before commencing any physical activity regime, particularly if you have diabetes. Your healthcare provider can guide the safe exercises for you and help you create an exercise program tailored to your needs and goals.
Getting Started with Physical Activity for Diabetes
Physical activity is essential to diabetes management, but starting a new exercise program can be challenging, especially if you have been inactive for some time.
Below are a few recommendations to assist you in initiating physical exercise for diabetes management.
Consult with Healthcare Provider:
Before starting any exercise program, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare provider, especially if you have diabetes. Your healthcare provider can guide the safe exercises for you and help you create an exercise program tailored to your needs and goals.
Set Realistic Goals:
Setting realistic goals is essential for success when starting a new exercise program. Start with small goals, such as taking a 10-minute walk each day, and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your physical activity over time. Creating realistic objectives can keep you inspired and prevent harm.
Choose Activities That Are Enjoyable and Accessible:
Choose activities that you enjoy and that are accessible to you. If you prefer outdoor activities, consider walking, hiking, or cycling. If you prefer indoor activities, consider swimming, dancing, or joining a gym. Choosing activities you enjoy can help you stick to your exercise program and make physical activity a habit.
4. Monitor Blood Sugar Levels During Physical Activity:
Physical activity can affect blood sugar levels, so monitoring your blood sugar levels before, during, and after physical activity is essential. Suppose your blood glucose levels are too high or too low. In that case, you should adjust your physical activity or seek advice from your healthcare provider.
5. Be Consistent and Make Physical Activity a Habit:
Consistency is vital in physical activity for diabetes management. Aim to engage in physical activity at least three to five times weekly. Make it a habit by scheduling physical activity into your daily routine. Consider finding a workout partner or joining a group fitness class to help you stay motivated and accountable.
Tips For Safe and Effective Ways Of getting Active With Diabetes
Physical activity is an essential component of diabetes management. Still, it’s important to take steps to ensure that your physical activity is safe and effective. Here are some tips for safe and effective physical activity with diabetes:
Wear Appropriate Footwear:
Wearing appropriate footwear is essential for safe and effective physical activity. Choose shoes that provide good support and cushioning and that fit well. Avoid shoes that are too tight or loose, as they can cause blisters or other foot injuries.
Staying hydrated is important during physical activity, especially if you have diabetes. To avoid dehydration, consuming water before, during, and after engaging in physical activity is recommended. It is advised to steer clear of sugary drinks as they have the potential to cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels.
Check Blood Sugar Levels Regularly:
Physical activity can affect blood sugar levels, so it’s essential to check your blood sugar levels regularly, especially before and after physical activity. If your blood sugar levels are too high or too low, adjust your physical activity accordingly or consult your healthcare provider for guidance.
Avoid Exercising During Peak Insulin Action:
Exercising during peak insulin action can increase the risk of hypoglycemia. If you take insulin, it’s essential to time your physical activity so that it occurs during a period of low insulin action. Speak with your healthcare provider for guidance on when to exercise based on your insulin regimen.
Be Aware of Hypoglycemia Symptoms:
Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can occur during or after physical activity. Be aware of the symptoms of hypoglycemia, which may include sweating, shakiness, dizziness, confusion, and weakness. If you experience hypoglycemia symptoms, stop physical activity and treat your low blood sugar immediately.
Staying active is essential when you have diabetes. You can manage your blood glucose levels effectively, maintain good health, and lower the likelihood of developing heart disease with the help of this.
However, it’s essential to take steps to ensure safe and effective physical activity with diabetes. When starting to exercise with diabetes, you must talk to your doctor first and set realistic goals. Then pick activities you enjoy and can do easily. Make sure to monitor your blood glucose levels frequently during physical activity and aim to incorporate exercise into your regular schedule. Additionally, wear appropriate footwear, stay hydrated, check blood sugar levels regularly, avoid exercising during peak insulin action, and be aware of hypoglycemia symptoms.
By incorporating physical activity into your diabetes management routine and ensuring safe and effective physical activity, you can enjoy the many benefits of physical activity for diabetes and improve your overall health and well-being. So, get active with diabetes today and take control of your health!
- American Diabetes Association. (2021). Physical activity is important.
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- Sigal, R. J., Armstrong, M. J., Colby, P., Kenny, G. P., Plotnikoff, R. C., Reichert, S. M., Riddell, M. C., Tremblay, M. S., & Wong, S. L. (2013). Physical activity and diabetes. Canadian Journal of Diabetes, 37(Supplement 1), S40-S44.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2018). Physical activity guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition. https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-