The three pillars of treating diabetes are medication, diabetes-friendly foods, and physical exercise. Having an exercise plan for diabetes takes the main stage because it makes your body more sensitive to insulin thereby promoting the uptake of insulin by your body cells and lowering blood glucose.
Exercise is an integral part of diabetes management. An adult has to have some form of regular physical activity of around 30 minutes daily. Bottom line: If you have diabetes, you must have an exercise plan – period.
Health benefits of exercises in diabetes
Exercise benefits on the health of the diabetic are as significant as sticking to the diabetes diet plan. Both these factors help in lowering the doses of your diabetes medicines.
In fact, studies have shown these two factors can well reverse diabetes type 2 and help you stop your sugar medication.
Exercise is necessary for a diabetic because it controls the weight and lowers the blood sugar level by making the blood glucose more sensitive to insulin.
It makes the action of insulin more effective and reduces insulin resistance. This allows the body cells to utilize glucose more effectively. This gives a sense of well-being and makes you feel overall better.
When you exercise, the body utilizes the glucose in the blood and converts it into the energy required for physical activity. The resultant fall in the blood glucose levels relaxes the beta cells in the pancreas and they stop producing insulin.
Please note that exercise does not cause the blood sugar to fall below normal levels in a healthy person.
After 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise, when your stored glycogen has been utilized, your body starts using fat for energy. This fat is mobilized from the fat depots.
You thereby not only lower your blood glucose levels but also burn the fat, helping in weight loss.
Best exercises for diabetes
There are various types of exercises, you can do if you have diabetes. However, aerobic exercises are recommended. Consult your physician and take his nod about the type of exercise that is best suited for you. Then make your exercise plan.
The best possible aerobic exercises for diabetes control include:
- Walking: Whenever possible, choose walking instead of driving. It has potential health benefits.
- Tennis or badminton
- Stretching exercises
- Join the health club
Weight training exercises are also recommended if you are insulin resistant. They increase blood flow to the muscle tissues and increase your sensitivity to insulin. Choose the one that you enjoy the most or is convenient. Whatever you do, do it religiously and be consistent.
The fundamental reason to exercise is to spend energy, which will come from the burning up of blood glucose. This will help to lower the raised blood glucose levels in the blood.
If you are pregnant and diabetic, know the safe exercises in pregnancy that you can do.
Certain precautions to take when you exercise
- A 5-minute warming up is necessary before you start exercising. Start exercising at a gradual pace initially.
- Similarly, a five-minute cooling down is necessary after you have finished.
- As exercise makes the blood sugar sensitive to insulin, there can be a sudden drop in blood glucose levels. The risk of hypoglycemia is there. Look for its telltale signs, such as anxiety, shivering, palpitations, excessive sweating, dizziness, and headache, which may be indicative of hypoglycemia.
- A diabetic patient must keep either sugar packets or sugar pills or glucose biscuits or such sugar raising items on his possession to take at times like these.
- One must check the blood glucose levels before and after the exercise. A blood glucose level of 100 to 250 mg/dL means you are good to go. If the level is less than 100 mg/dl, have a light carbohydrate snack before you start your exercise.
- Drink plenty of water before, during the exercise, and after, as there is a risk of dehydration. Drinking adequate water has tremendous health benefits.
- Avoid consuming alcohol prior to or immediately after exercise.
- Stick to moderation. Avoid strenuous physical activity. It can cause hypoglycemia.
- Limit your exercise sessions to one or two per day.
- If you exercise in the evening, allow a gap of at least two hours before you go to bed.
- The diabetic must ensure that the footwear is comfortable and he must check for any foot injuries after the day’s work or a bout of exercise.
- Having an exercise program and following it regularly is great and will go a long way in managing your diabetes.
- Know when you should not exercise.
However, you have to exercise patience. It will be months before you start seeing results. Just do not give up midway. It has to be a lifelong habit.