We are at the beginning of Diabetes Prevention Awareness Month, and for those who are prediabetic or have Type 1 or 2 diabetes, exercise is one of the most important things you can do to control and even improve your condition. “Exercise improves blood glucose control in type 2 diabetes, reduces cardiovascular risk factors, contributes to weight loss, and improves well-being… Regular exercise may prevent or delay type 2 diabetes development… Regular exercise also has considerable health benefits for people with type 1 diabetes (Diabetes Journal). From prevention to improving overall health and well-being, exercise is a critical piece to managing diabetes. Let’s dive in deeper to understand how exercise helps prevent and manage diabetes, and then we will share some ideas for how you can incorporate exercise into your weekly schedule.
Prevention & Management
There is a lot of research behind the necessity of exercise for the prevention and management of diabetes. Some of the findings for the effects of exercise on diabetes include lowers blood glucose levels and improvement of your body’s sensitivity to insulin which counters insulin resistance (Harvard Health). When you are able to manage your blood sugar levels with physical activity, you reduce your need for medication and also limit the risk of other long-term health effects that are associated with diabetes.
Before you begin a new exercise routine, it’s important to understand the extra steps you have to take to monitor your blood sugar levels during physical activity. You will want to start by checking with your doctor to ensure that you are healthy enough to partake in vigorous exercise, like strength training or running. Your doctor may prescribe a tailored plan to ease into activity to protect your health. There are also general guidelines that you should follow when it comes to monitoring your blood sugar levels before exercise:
- “Lower than 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L).Your blood sugar may be too low to exercise safely. Eat a small snack containing 15 to 30 grams of carbohydrates, such as fruit juice, fruit, crackers or even glucose tablets before you begin your workout.
- 100 to 250 mg/dL (5.6 to 13.9 mmol/L).You’re good to go. For most people, this is a safe pre-exercise blood sugar range.
- 250 mg/dL (13.9 mmol/L) or higher.This is a caution zone — your blood sugar may be too high to exercise safely. Before exercising, test your urine for ketones — substances made when your body breaks down fat for energy. The presence of ketones indicates that your body doesn’t have enough insulin to control your blood sugar.”
(Source: Mayo Clinic)
Once you hit your stride, you will be able to exercise safely and understand how your body reacts to increased physical activity and adapt your eating habits to support it.
When you are new to exercise, you will likely feel overwhelmed by all of the different programs and types of exercise on the market. How will you know which one is right for you? Well, it all comes down to personal preference, capabilities, and lifestyle. When you’re just getting started, it’s okay to try several different types of exercise to see which one best fits your schedule, budget, and type of activity you enjoy doing. Here are some ideas to try:
- Yoga (at-home or in a studio)
- At-home strength training
- Personal training at a gym
- Group classes (i.e., cycling, Zumba, etc.)
Try a few different exercise types and settings for the first month of your journey before you commit to the one(s) that works best for you. Once you decide on the right fit, make it a point to schedule the activity into your week. Treat your exercise the same way you would treat an important meeting, and soon you will be craving that break in your day to focus on your health and improving your diabetes symptoms.
We hope this blog inspires you to take control of your diabetes and incorporate more activity into your life! If you need help getting started by addressing some underlying injuries or discomfort, we would love to work with you. Request an appointment today to get started!