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Exercise and Diabetes: Precautions and Recommendations

Exercise is very important for people with diabetes to prevent type 2 diabetes from developing. So what do you need to know about exercise and diabetes?

A new study has shown that even two weeks of inactivity can have a huge effect on blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity. It took study participants over two weeks of resuming activity to get back to normal blood sugar levels. Some participants were not able to lower their blood sugar after the two week period of having a daily step count of less than 1,000 steps a day, and became full-fledged diabetics.

Especially if you are at risk for diabetes, have prediabetes, are overweight, or have a family history of diabetes, daily exercise is a vital step to take in order to get back to better health and prevent type 2 from developing. In combination with a healthy diet and any necessary medications, exercise is the best way to get your body back on track.

Benefits of exercise

Any type of aerobic exercise helps your body use insulin more efficiently. Other important benefits of exercise are:

  • Strong heart and reduced risk of blocked arteries
  • Strong bones
  • Stress relief
  • Improved circulation
  • Lower blood glucose
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improved cholesterol levels
  • Improved weight control
  • Stronger and leaner muscles
  • Higher energy level
  • Improved mood
  • Better sleep
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Diabetes and exercise: recommendations

The recommended amount of time to exercise is 30 minutes of exercise 5 times a week. Although if you want to break these up into smaller chunks of time, that works just as well. If you haven’t exercised in a while, you can start small, in 5 minute increments.

You can include strength training, such as weights and push-ups, for around 20 minutes two to three times a week. Remember to stretch before and after exercise to relax your muscles and improve muscle movement.

Good exercises for diabetes

Are you looking for where to start with an exercise plan if you have diabetes or are prediabetic? It helps to choose something that’s fun for you, something that doesn’t really feel like exercise. Here are a few options:

  • Yoga
  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Pilates
  • Weight training
  • Tai Chi
  • Stationary Bicycling
  • Resistance Band Training
  • Dancing
  • Climbing stairs
  • Hiking
  • Gardening
  • Tennis
  • Golf
  • Basketball
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How exercise affects blood sugar

There are precautions to take while exercising with diabetes, as working out can cause fluctuations in your blood sugar levels.

According for Ginger Vieira, author of Dealing with Diabetes Burnout, aerobic activities like jogging and doing the elliptical machine will lower your blood sugar, as they use glucose for energy and fuel.

Anaerobic activities like weights and circuit training are exercises in which the heart rate fluctuates up and down. During this type of exercise, blood sugar levels might go up. These types of activities will increase your insulin sensitivity later in the day, when the body is repairing and building muscles.

Gentle exercise like light yoga and walking aren’t going to affect your blood glucose very much.

Exercise and diabetes: when and how

Exercising first thing in the morning on an empty stomach might be the safest time to exercise without worrying about blood sugar lows. Take notes on how exercise affects your body and how it responds to see how much insulin you need to take or what kinds of foods you need to eat before and after exercising.

Keep a small snack handy in case you have a blood sugar low. Checking your blood sugar both before, during, and after exercise will allow you to be sure you are in range and give you an idea of how exercise affects you. Keep checking your blood sugar even after you are done working out, as low blood sugar can last from four to eight or more hours.

When is it safe to exercise?

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A good blood sugar range to start exercising is 100 to 250 mg/dL. This is a safe range to start physical activity; any lower and you might need a snack to bring your blood sugar back up. Any higher and your blood sugar may be too high and you could risk diabetic ketoacidosis.

Still want to know more about exercise and diabetes? Talk with your doctor before embarking on an exercise routine, especially if you haven’t been active in a while. It might help to get help from a personal trainer or certified diabetes educator to get your started on good, safe plan you can stick with.