Adopting an exercise program is important in every person’s life no matter if they’re disabled or have the body of an athlete. But for a diabetic, it could mean life and death. A diagnosis of diabetes means that you have to change your lifestyle to combat the risk of developing even more serious health problems.
Exercise plans that combine slow-paced exercises such as Yoga with exercises that increase cardiovascular fitness are essential to manage your diabetes properly. It’s important to take steps to prevent injury in any exercise plan you choose, but even more so with diabetics since wound healing is worsened and slower than normal.
The Important Role of Exercise in Diabetes Management
Everyone should know by now that exercise is an important part of maintaining or losing weight and keeping healthy. Exercise has an even more important role for diabetics in managing your blood sugar and avoiding insulin resistance.
Many times those with type 2 diabetes are producing some insulin, but not enough for what they require. Weight loss, exercise and lifestyle changes can help make a difference in how much insulin you need. You may even be able to get the glucose levels back to normal – without extra insulin or meds.
Exercises should be performed regularly to realize the benefits. Those diabetics who exercise on a regular basis experience less risk for a stroke or heart attack. And when you exercise, your muscles are busy using sugar and oxygen – which helps insulin work as it should.
Both types of exercise – aerobic and anaerobic – make you stronger. If you haven’t exercised in awhile, Yoga exercises or stretching can help you get started. Then, when you feel up to it, you can choose from aerobic or anaerobic.
Aerobic exercise causes the body to use large amounts of oxygen, lowering blood pressure, blood lipids and blood sugar that aren’t needed. Some aerobic exercises include swimming, dancing, jogging or anything you can do to get your heart rate up.
In anaerobic exercise, you’re working one area of the body at a time in short energy bursts. You can build muscles with anaerobic exercises, but it doesn’t strengthen lungs or your heart.
And you don’t use enough blood sugar to make a difference in your blood sugar levels. Regular exercise, along with a healthy diet, is the best thing you can do for yourself to keep healthy and fit.
For the diabetic, it’s imperative if you want to keep your blood sugar under control. Exercise metabolizes the glucose in your body and maintains normal blood sugar level. Your body will function more effectively because it helps increase intensity of insulin to the tissue in those suffering from type 2 diabetes.
That means more glucose leaves the bloodstream and travels into cells where it’s used for the purpose of creating energy. So the glucose in the blood is reduced, which is a very good thing for diabetics.
Exercise helps build muscles, which also use glucose to maintain their working order. So exercise helps the muscles gain the glucose needed and, in turn, lowers the blood sugar level.
Don’t forget that exercise burns fat and calories – which help you maintain a healthy weight. When you manage to maintain a healthy weight, your blood sugar level can stay in the normal range.
You may have trouble getting started on an exercise program if you’ve never been in to it before. Have patience and try new things until you find a program that works for you. Then, mix it up and try some new exercises that you might enjoy.
It’s Crucial to Monitor Your Blood Sugar with Exercise
Just as exercise is important to diabetics, the act of monitoring your blood sugar before and after exercise is crucial. Whether you eat before or after an exercise session can raise or lower the levels drastically.
You should definitely check your blood sugar levels before and after exercise – and also during the workout. You’ll then know how your body is reacting to exercise and that will help you prevent wide and potentially dangerous swings in your blood sugar levels.
If you’ve been inactive for awhile, be sure and check with your doctor before jumping into any exercise activity. He can direct you about the best time to exercise and how any medications you may be taking would affect your blood sugar.
For diabetics, the recommended amount of exercise to reap the most benefits is approximately 12 ½ hours per week of such exercises as swimming, bicycling or brisk walking.
Those who are taking insulin or other medications to lower blood sugar should test blood sugar 30 minutes before exercise begins. If your blood sugar is too low (lower than 100 mg/dL) at that time, you should try eating a snack of low carbs (up to 30 grams) before beginning your exercise program.
If your blood sugar measures 100 to 250 mg. or higher, you can begin your exercise routine. When your blood sugar is too high (250 mg/dL) you should take all precautions before you can exercise. That means testing your urine for the presence of ketones, which indicate your body can’t control your blood sugar for lack of insulin.
With ketones at a high level, you risk the condition of ketoacidosis, which needs immediate treatment. Ketoacidosis is a serious complication for diabetics, so be sure to attempt to get your blood sugar levels down before exercising.
During exercise, monitor your blood sugar every half hour and watch for symptoms of low blood sugar. This is true especially if you’re planning to work out for a long period of time or the workout intensity increases.
Stop exercising if your blood sugar level is at a dangerous number. Soon, you’ll get to know how your body responds to exercise (such as feeling weak or confused) and be able to more accurately predict what impact exercise has on your blood sugar levels.
When you finish your exercise routine, check your blood sugar immediately. Keep checking several times in the next few hours. Exercise removes sugar held in your liver and muscles and when your body restores that sugar, it must take the sugar from your blood.
Your blood sugar is more affected the longer or more strenuous your exercise is. You may have low blood sugar for up to eight hours after you finish exercising. Have a snack such as nuts or a granola bar after the workout to keep your blood sugar from fluctuating.
How Much Exercise Does a Diabetic Need?
All diabetics should exercise to get the benefits it offers in lowering your blood sugar and strengthening your body. Experts recommend that 150 minutes (about 12 hours) of mid-intensity aerobic exercise (activity that raises your heart rate) per week is a good goal to shoot for.
Whatever days you choose for exercising, you should try to schedule it for the same time and same day every week. Your body will get used to the changes in blood sugar levels and be better able to control it naturally.
If you’re taking insulin, a set time and day will help you better regulate insulin intake. Some diabetics are also dealing with obesity and exercise can be very beneficial to reduce weight.
Some diabetics with type 2 diabetes have been able to successfully lose weight on a carefully monitored exercise and diet plan. Blood sugar levels can become regulated enough so there is no more need for insulin and medications.
Choose a type of exercise that’s enjoyable to you and you’ll have less risk of getting bored and discontinuing it. Keep in mind that diabetics should consider the stress that certain exercises have on the feet, something that poses a problem for those with this diagnosis.
A sedentary lifestyle puts everyone at risk for being overweight and subject to a great number of diseases. Exercise can help both in weight loss and works to keep diseases at bay.
Although the benefits of exercise are widely known, the diabetic should take extra precautions not to overexert or tire the body too much. Stop exercising immediately if you feel any type of discomfort in any part of your body.
Numbness, pain or annoying tingling in your legs should also be an alert for you to stop exercising. Extreme weather can also make a difference in the risk of you developing hypoglycemia. Cold weather can make the skin dry and cracked, which isn’t good for a diabetic.
Any other changes in the way your body functions should also be considered during exercise. For example, if you become short of breath or nauseated, don’t exercise or stop immediately. Dizziness or light-headedness and confusion are also red flags for the diabetic.
Why Walking and Weight Training Are Effective Diabetes Controllers
There are good reasons why walking and weight training are the best choices for diabetics. Exercise strengthens bodies and can control blood glucose levels. One of the best reasons is that exercise can significantly lengthen your life span.
Simply adding walking to your lifestyle can reduce your risk of death from any cause in up to 40% of diabetics if you spend two hours a week walking. Even if you just walk a couple of times a week, brisk walking can effectively help reduce blood sugar levels.
Among other great benefits, walking also improves circulation so important to diabetics and prevents fat cells from forming. Take precautions when taking up walking to choose the right type of walking shoes to prevent injury or cause blisters on the feet.
Weight training is a great muscle builder. For each pound of muscle you gain, your body will burn approximately 50 more calories even when you’re not working out. That’s a boon to diabetics who want to lose weight.
Muscles also help diabetics by taking glucose away from the bloodstream for their own purpose. When the muscles take the glucose, the blood sugar level is naturally lowered. Another benefit of weight training is that it increases metabolism helping you energetic and youthful.
Weight training and building muscle as a result also reduces your risk of injury by increasing your strength. Injuries are a major concern for diabetics because it takes longer for the healing process.
Walking and weight training also improve bone density, lower blood pressure, keep the gastrointestinal tract functioning properly and reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.
Especially helpful to the diabetics, walking and weight training improves the condition of insulin resistance. A diabetic who exercises judiciously can expect to enjoy better health and a better chance of controlling blood sugar levels.
Exercises That Prevent Injury and Ensure Success for Diabetics
Exercise can be particularly tough on the diabetic because of the chance of injury or doing damage to the feet. Injuries are more difficult to heal for the diabetic, so if you’re going to exercise, make sure it’s a routine that has a lower risk of injury and ensures the success that exercising can bring to the body.
Swimming, the stationary bike and weight training are good choices because they get your heart rate up and build muscle. You may need specialized shoes if you choose walking to be sure you don’t get blisters. And be sure to wear socks.
Those exercises not recommended for diabetics – include parachuting, diving and mountain or rock climbing. All of these types of exercises increase the chances of injury and could cause hypoglycemia, which can lead to very serious diabetic complications.
Types of aerobic exercises that get the heart rate up are good choices for diabetics. Aerobic activity helps you manage hypertension and can reduce cholesterol to lower the risk of stroke or heart disease.
A diabetic is especially subject to depression, lack of self-esteem and dementia. Exercise releases endorphins which boost mental health and confidence and lowers the risk of depression. Exercise also helps to alleviate stress.
Good, quality sleep is also important for the diabetic to be able to have the energy and peace of mind to manage the many tasks of dealing with diabetes. Always listen to your body to tell you when you shouldn’t exercise.
Testing blood sugar is important to find out if it’s a good time for exercise or if you should wait until the blood sugar levels out. And if you’re suffering from an infection or a severe and open wound, don’t exercise until the doctor tells you it’s healed.
Becoming an active exerciser might mean that you have to overcome some obstacles – such as not having enough time or energy, but when you’re able to overcome the barriers and get yourself on a regular exercise routine, you’ll notice a big difference in the way you feel and the ease in which you can keep your blood sugar regulated.
If you’re a diabetic, be sure to discuss any type of exercise you choose with a doctor before engaging in it. Exercise doesn’t have to cost anything and it will have an immediate impact on your health and well-being.
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