Diabetics do not have to avoid exercise, on the contrary, it brings good health and feelings of well-being in addition to managing the disease.
Many diabetics can testify that living with the disease is not about hospitals or insulin; nor is it a death sentence. Diabetes is more of a lifestyle, exercise and nutrition wake-up call. Exercise can help diabetics by lowering blood sugar levels and lowering the risk of heart disease. It can also help to improve overall health, and exercise will help diabetics feel better about themselves.
Are there risks to diabetics who exercise?
Exercise changes the way the body reacts to insulin; it makes the body more sensitive to insulin and the blood sugar level may get too low after exercising. You should check blood sugar levels before, during and after exercising. Your doctor should tell you what your blood sugar level should be before and after exercising. If blood sugar level is too low or too high before planning to exercise, it may be prudent to wait until the level improves. It is especially important to monitor blood sugar levels if you are exercising in very hot or cold conditions.
How does exercise lower blood sugar?
The store of glucose in the muscles is utilized first when exercising. Glucose from the blood and fatty acids are used as fuel. Exercise lowers blood glucose levels by increasing glucose uptake into the muscle cells, without increasing the amount of insulin needed. After exercising, muscles will have increased insulin sensitivity for one or two days. Exercising four times a week, for example, will result in increased insulin sensitivity on the other three non-exercise days. In this way, total insulin requirements will decrease.
Exercise burns calories and this helps in weight management – important for diabetics who need to maintain a healthy weight. It also improves circulation, especially in the arms and legs, and can reduce stress. Exercise alone often will take away the need for some medications.
What kinds of exercises can diabetics engage in?
This depends on whether the individual has other health problems. Brisk walking, light aerobics, swimming, cycling, rowing and some weight bearing exercises are ideal for lowering blood sugar levels.
No matter what kind of exercise you do, warm up by spending 5 to 10 minutes doing a low-intensity exercise such as walking, then do stretches for 5 – 10 minutes. Go slowly when commencing an exercise program and build up intensity as you get fitter.