Diabetes is a chronic medical condition impacting millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by high blood glucose (sugar) in the blood due to either a lack of insulin or the body’s inability to use insulin effectively. Exercise is an effective way to manage diabetes, as it can help lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. In this article, we will explore the ten best Diabetes-Friendly Exercises for diabetes and blood sugar management.
In what ways does exercise assist in managing Type 2 diabetes?
To begin, let’s explore how Type 2 diabetes affects glucose (blood sugar) levels. Insulin is produced by your pancreas, allowing your cells to take in blood sugar and utilize it as energy. In individuals with T2D, cells do not respond properly to insulin, leading to insulin resistance, which prompts the pancreas to create more insulin to compensate. This, in turn, elevates blood sugar levels, resulting in a pre-diabetes or T2D diagnosis.
Fortunately, physical activity can assist in managing the effects of Type 2 diabetes. For instance, maintaining a regular exercise routine may:
- Decrease blood sugar levels: An exercise regimen can lower blood sugar levels over time.
- Enhance insulin sensitivity in cells: Exercise enhances insulin sensitivity, allowing cells to use insulin more efficiently.
- Contribute to healthy weight loss: Moderate-intensity exercise can promote healthy weight loss, which may prevent or reverse T2D.
- Lower the risk of cardiovascular disease: T2D can heighten the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes. However, combined exercise training can reduce these cardiovascular risk factors.
- Preserve muscle strength: Diabetes contributes to low muscle mass and strength. Consistent physical activity can aid in maintaining muscle strength.
The Best 10 Exercises If You Have Diabetes
Walking is one of the best Diabetes-Friendly Exercises for diabetes and blood sugar management. It is a low-impact exercise that can be done anywhere and requires no special equipment. Walking for just 30 minutes every day can help improve blood sugar control, lower blood pressure, and improve cholesterol levels.
Jogging or running is a great way to increase your heart rate and enhance your cardiovascular health. It can also help lower blood sugar levels by boosting insulin. However, it is necessary to start slowly and gradually increase the power and duration of your workouts to avoid injury.
Cycling is another great exercise for diabetes and blood sugar management. It is a low-impact exercise that can be done indoors or outdoors and can help improve cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, and improve insulin sensitivity. Cycling can also be a fun and social activity, making it easier to stick with over time.
Swimming is a low-impact exercise that can be particularly helpful for people with diabetes who may have joint pain or other mobility issues. It can help improve cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, and improve insulin sensitivity. Swimming can also be a great way to cool off during the hot summer.
Strength training, or resistance training, can help build muscle mass and improve insulin sensitivity. It can also help improve bone density and reduce the risk of falls in adults with diabetes. Strength training exercises can include lifting weights, using resistance bands, or performing bodyweight Diabetes-Friendly Exercises such as push-ups or squats.
Yoga is a gentle exercise that can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being. It has also been shown to enhance insulin sensitivity and blood sugar management in people with diabetes. Yoga can include a variety of poses and breathing exercises and can be modified for people of all fitness levels.
Tai Chi is a gentle exercise that mixes slow, flowing movements with deep breathing and meditation. It has been shown to improve balance, reduce stress, and improve insulin sensitivity in people with diabetes. Tai Chi can also help improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of falls in adults with diabetes.
Pilates is a low-impact exercise that builds core strength and improves flexibility. It can help improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control in people with diabetes. Pilates exercises can be done using a mat or with a specialized kit such as a reformer.
Dancing is a fun and social way to get exercise and improve blood sugar management. It can help improve cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, and improve insulin sensitivity. Dancing can include a variety of styles, such as ballroom, salsa, or hip hop, and can be adapted for people of all fitness levels.
Hiking is an awesome way to get exercise and enjoy the outdoors. It can help improve cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, and improve insulin sensitivity. Hiking can be done on trails or in parks and is adapted for people of all fitness levels.
Which exercises should people with diabetes avoid?
If you have diabetes, it’s essential to maintain an active lifestyle to manage blood sugar levels and overall health. However, certain exercises may not suit everyone with diabetes, especially those with certain complications or medical conditions.
Here are some exercises that people with diabetes should avoid or be cautious of:
- High-impact exercises: Activities such as running, jumping, or high-intensity aerobics can put significant stress on the feet and joints, particularly if you have nerve damage or peripheral neuropathy. Low-impact exercises such as walking, swimming, or cycling are better alternatives.
- Heavy weightlifting: Lifting heavy weights can cause a sudden spike in blood pressure, which can be dangerous if you have a diabetes-related eye, blood vessel, or heart problems. Strength training with lighter weights or resistance bands may be a safer option.
- Hot yoga or Bikram yoga: Practicing yoga in a heated room may cause dehydration, affecting blood sugar levels. It’s essential to stay well hydrated and avoid overheating during exercise.
- Activities that involve sudden, jerky movements: Sports that require sudden stops or changes in direction, such as basketball or soccer, can put you at risk for injury, particularly if you have diabetic neuropathy. Gentle exercises such as yoga, tai chi, or Pilates may be better options.
- Diabetes-Friendly Exercises that put pressure on the eyes: Certain yoga poses or weightlifting exercises that require straining can increase pressure inside the eyes, which can be dangerous if you have diabetic retinopathy or other eye problems.
In summary, choosing Diabetes-Friendly Exercises that are safe and appropriate for your needs and health status is essential. Always consult your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise routine, particularly if you have diabetes-related complications.
What blood glucose range should you target when you exercise?
The blood glucose range you should target when exercising depends on various factors such as the type, intensity, and duration of exercise, your current blood glucose level, and any medications you are taking.
In general, if you have diabetes, the American Diabetes Association recommends aiming for a blood glucose range of 100 to 250 mg/dL (5.6 to 13.9 mmol/L) before you exercise. If your blood glucose is below 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L), eating a small carbohydrate-containing snack before exercising is best to prevent hypoglycemia. However, if your blood glucose is above 250 mg/dL (13.9 mmol/L) and you have ketones in your urine, you should avoid exercise until your blood glucose levels have been corrected.
During exercise, monitoring your blood glucose levels regularly is important, especially if you’re engaging in high-intensity exercise. The American Diabetes Association recommends checking your blood glucose every 30 minutes during prolonged exercise sessions and adjusting your carbohydrate intake accordingly.
After exercise, monitoring your blood glucose levels to ensure they haven’t dropped too low is important. It’s common for blood glucose levels to decrease after exercise, so eating a small snack containing carbohydrates and protein is important to help replenish your energy stores and prevent hypoglycemia.
In conclusion, exercise is an important part of diabetes management. These ten Diabetes-Friendly Exercises can help improve blood sugar control, lower blood pressure, and improve insulin sensitivity. It is important to consult with a healthcare provider before forming any exercise program, especially if you have diabetes or other medical conditions. People can improve their overall health and well-being with regular exercise and a diabetes-friendly diet.