Physical activity and exercise when you have diabetes
Physical activity / exercise is important for everyone, but especially for people with diabetes. It can lower your glucose level and help your body use insulin better. Other benefits include:
- lowering blood pressure
- decreasing bad cholesterol
- burning calories, building muscle and losing fat
- helping you to feel better and have more energy
- reducing stress.
Differences between physical activity and exercise
Activities are things you do each day, such as walking to your car, making a meal, doing a hobby, or housework. Exercises are physically-exerting activities done to make your muscles, heart and lungs stronger.
Getting started with physical activity
Examples of exercise are:
- Choose activities that you enjoy.
- Any increase in daily activity is helpful.
- Simple ways to increase your daily activity are:
- Park farther away at the shopping mall or grocery store and walk.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator/escalator.
- Do yard work or housework.
- Move around during TV commercials
There are two types of exercise that can help keep your physically healthy:
Drink water before, during and after exercise.
- Aerobic exercise is a rhythmic, repetitive activity such as walking, swimming and biking that continues for at least 30 minutes. This exercise restores a steady supply of oxygen to the muscles that are being exercised. Aerobic exercise reduces body fat.
- Strength training improves your muscle strength and tone, reduces body fat and may reduce pain in your low back. There are several different types of strength training: elastic bands, cuff and hand weights, free weights, wall pulleys and weight machines.
Remember the following basic exercise guidelines:
To tell how hard you are exercising you can use the "talk test." This is your ability to have a fairly normal conversation while exercising.
If you can sing, you need to work a little harder. If you have trouble talking, you need to slow down.
- Check with your doctor before starting a program.
- Wear layers of loose-fitting clothing so you can adapt to temperature and/or environment changes. Wear comfortable athletic shoes that tie.
- Avoid outdoor exercise in very hot or cold temperatures.
- Start your exercise slowly by stretching and warming up (a slow pace of exercise for 5 minutes). Finish your exercise by cooling down (a slowerpaced exercise for 10 minutes).
- Do not exercise if you are not feeling well or if you have a temperature of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Do not exercise if you have type 1 diabetes and your blood glucose is more than 250 mg/dL.
- Do not drink alcohol right before or after exercise.
- If you take insulin or sulfonylurea, carry candy or glucose tablets with you during exercise to use if your blood glucose gets below 80 or if you have symptoms of low blood glucose.
- Check your blood glucose before and after exercise if you take insulin or a sulfonylurea. If your glucose level is less than 100 before you start to exercise, have a piece or fruit, one-half cup of fruit juice or any other food that can give you 15 grams of carbohydrate.
- If you have low blood glucose two times a week before or after exercise, be sure to check with your doctor or diabetes educator to see if you need a change in your diabetes medication.
- Check your feet for signs of blisters, redness or injury. Do not exercise until your feet have healed.
- Stop right away if you feel new pain or discomfort. Check with your doctor.
Positive changes from exercise
Beginning an exercise program can be a challenge, but after a few days or weeks you will begin to see and feel these positive changes:
If you are not used to regular exercise, start by walking around the block once or twice. The more exercise you do, the stronger you will get.
- more confidence and independence
- more energy to do your everyday activities
- less difficulty reducing or maintaining weight
- more strength and endurance
- increased flexibility and balance
- improved feeling of well-being and a reduction
- better quality sleep.
You do not need to join a health club or buy expensive health equipment to exercise. Choose an exercise you enjoy so you will stick with it. If you feel adventurous, try something new. You may find a hidden talent or new passion.