Life with diabetes is no fun, and exercise can reduce the risk by a gigantic 58%. Not only that, those who are already diabetic can effectively regulate their blood glucose levels by keeping active.
That's because exercise helps control your blood sugar levels by optimizing insulin sensitivity and using up sugar in the body. It aids weight loss and lowers the risk of developing complications from diabetes, such as heart disease and stroke.
Staying active is your ticket to a healthy life despite diabetes, but it's a rocky road. Exercising while being diabetic can be complicated. Blood sugar fluctuation during exercise is real and can't be ignored.
At the same time, working out regularly is a necessity and must not be avoided either.
We've got the answers for you!
Grab your cup of coffee (without sugar, of course) and read to learn about diabetes, exercise, and how to ensure their peaceful coexistence.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition that affects the way your body uses blood sugar. Normally, your pancreas makes a hormone called insulin to help your body store and use the sugar it gets from food. But if you have diabetes, your pancreas doesn't make enough insulin, or your cells can't use insulin properly.
Sugar builds up in your blood and can cause serious health problems, including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and amputations. Diabetes is very common—according to the CDC some 37 million Americans have it—but it's also preventable and treatable.
How Does Exercise Help?
If you have diabetes, you know that keeping your blood sugar levels in check is a constant balancing act. Too much sugar in your blood can lead to serious health complications, but too little can make you feel sick and weak.
Exercise can help you achieve the perfect balance by improving your body's sensitivity to insulin and helping to regulate the release of sugar into your bloodstream.
And it's not just good for your blood sugar levels, regular exercise has been shown to lower your risk of heart disease, improve your mental health, and even help you to live longer.
So if you're looking for a way to improve your diabetes management, get out there and start moving!
Here's how to plan physical activity for the whole week:
Light intensity exercise three times a week. Shoot for 30 minutes each day, five days a week. You don't have to complete all of it at the gym. Other things, such as going for a walk or riding a bike, count too.
Actually, if you have diabetes, you might just choose walking, swimming, cycling, or some medium-intensity team sports. The gym, you'll need for strength training with weights and resistance bands only.
You just need to be active for 30 minutes daily, 150 minutes a week; that's all your body asks for.
Strength training is a must for a minimum of two times per week, which may mean utilizing weight machines, free weights, or resistance bands. You can choose bodyweight exercises (e.g., push-ups, bodyweight bridges) if you want to.
Newcomers or those who haven't worked out in some time should start slow by doing 5-10 minutes each day. As you gradually get stronger and more fit, add a few minutes every day until you reach your desired goal.
What to Bring to the Gym?
Just some quick snacks to help fight dizziness and energy drain if your BGLs (blood sugar levels) go too low, and a water bottle. Keeping your body well hydrated really matters, especially so when you are diabetic.
No fancy gear, gadgets, or tools, just your snack, and a water bottle to keep you cool!
Keep checking your BGL before, during, and after workouts to see how your body is holding up to the change in activity.
Best Exercises for Diabetic Patients
Diabetes never comes alone; it affects the body in multiple ways. Diabetics commonly have arthritis, obesity, and blood pressure issues. Because of this, exercises that do not put excessive pressure on joints are the best.
We are listing the most suitable ones:
A 2021 review stated that walking supports people with type 2 diabetes by lowering blood pressure, HbA1c levels, and body mass index. You don't need an expensive gym membership or equipment to get moving- a supportive pair of shoes and a safe place to walk is all you need to start today.
By walking for just 30 minutes five days per week, you can easily meet the recommended minimum target for aerobic fitness.
Perfect for people with diabetes, quite enjoyable as well!
Swimming, water aerobics, aqua jogging, and other aquatic exercises can help your heart, lungs, and muscles work harder while putting a little strain on your joints.
Fitness never gets more enjoyable than this! A treat indeed!
4. Team Sports
If you're slumping to the gym every day, it's time to join a recreational sports team.
Because the opportunity to socialize with your teammates and the commitment you make to them may help reignite the passion that's needed for a workout.
Many leisure sports provide an excellent aerobic workout, including basketball, soccer, softball, doubles tennis, and ultimate frisbee.
5. Aerobic Dance
Joining an aerobic dance or fitness class is a great way to commit to your workout goals. For example, Zumba is a fusion of dance and aerobic movements that makes for quite the cardio workout!
After participating in Zumba classes for 16 weeks, women with type 2 diabetes were more driven to exercise, according to a 2015 study. Participants also enhanced their aerobatic fitness and lost weight as a result of the program.
6. Strength Training
Weightlifting and other strength-training routines help to increase your muscle mass, which can assist you in burning more calories each day.
For people with diabetes, weightlifting can offer several special benefits. First of all, it can help regulate blood sugar levels by increasing insulin sensitivity. In addition, lifting weights can help to reduce body fat and increase muscle mass. This can lead to improved glycemic control and a reduction in the risk of complications associated with diabetes.
Finally, weightlifting may also improve cardiac health by reducing LDL cholesterol levels and increasing HDL cholesterol levels. So, diabetics who engage in regular weightlifting can enjoy better health and a reduced risk of serious complications.
If you want to use weight machines, free weights, or even heavy household objects like canned goods or water bottles as resistance for your weekly fitness routine, go for it. The best way, however, is to join a gym because you get all the equipment you need in one place.
Consider taking a weightlifting class or asking a professional fitness trainer for assistance if you want to learn how to lift weights safely and effectively.
7. Resistance Band Exercises
It may appear so, but weightlifting isn't the only way to buff up. You can build strong muscles with resistance band exercises as well. They are easy on your joints and perfectly engage and activate muscles, just like their free-weight counterparts.
Buy some good quality, durable resistance bands from DMoose and give it a go. Building muscle will not feel like an unwanted burden anymore!
Workout Safety Tips for Diabetics
Exercise helps regulate blood sugar levels and improves your insulin, but things can quickly tip to the wrong side for diabetics working out if sugar levels decide to soar too high or drop too low.
Here are the tips to rule out such a situation and ensure workout safety for diabetes patients:
Talk to Your Physician
As a diabetic patient, you will have to do a few things over and above the usual stuff to ensure your blood sugar levels never hinder your workout. Visiting your physician before hopping onto a gym workout is one of them.
It's essential to discuss with your doctor what types of exercise would be the best for you and understand what blood glucose levels should be before, during, and post-workout.
Additionally, they can give you diet suggestions on how to manage blood sugar while still being active.
Get a Professional Onboard
Think of someone, a professional, who has experience in training diabetic patients. A certified personal trainer can help you learn how to exercise safely while factoring in your type 2 diabetes. Sometimes, all it takes is one or two sessions to get started.
You may not want to hire one forever, just learn the basics and essentials of workout safety for diabetics, and you can continue it for as long as you want.
A Small Diabetes Kit
You'll need to check your blood glucose level before, during, and after the workout. A small diabetes kit is a must-have for this purpose.
Additionally, working out can trigger symptoms like dizziness and lightheadedness. Although eating a nutritious diet and controlling your blood sugar levels can reduce the risk of developing hypoglycemia, it's still a good idea to carry quick-digesting carbohydrates (like soda, glucose tablets, or sports drinks) with you in case you start to feel unwell.
So keep a diabetes kit to keep a check on your glucose levels and some quick carbs to help when things are going down.
1. What is the best exercise for diabetics?
Walking is often touted as the best exercise for people of all ages and fitness levels, but it is especially beneficial for diabetics. When you walk, your muscles use glucose for energy, which helps to lower blood sugar levels.
In addition, walking helps increase insulin sensitivity, making it easier for your body to process sugar. Walking also helps improve circulation and prevent the build-up of plaque in the arteries.
And finally, walking is a low-impact form of exercise, which means it is easy on the joints. For all these reasons, walking is an excellent form of exercise for people with diabetes. So put on your walking shoes and hit the pavement!
2. What exercise is best for lowering blood sugar?
When it comes to lowering blood sugar, there are a lot of different exercises that can be helpful. Walking, for example, is a great way to lower blood sugar because it helps promote insulin sensitivity. In fact just 30 minutes of walking per day can significantly lower blood sugar levels.
Additionally, swimming and biking are also great exercises for lowering blood sugar. These activities increase the body's metabolism and improve insulin sensitivity. As a result, they can be very effective at lowering blood sugar levels.
3. Which exercises should diabetics avoid?
You must avoid extremely strenuous activities like heavy weight lifting, HIIT, and isometric exercises. The best thing is to walk, bike, swim or dance. Mild to moderate intensity works best for diabetics.
4. How much should a diabetic walk a day?
Brisk walking workouts help stabilize blood sugar levels in diabetics. A 30-minute walk at least five days per week is just what the body requires. You finish 150 minutes of mild to moderate activity and that’s your fitness goal achieved!
5. How quickly will exercise lower blood sugar?
You might experience low blood sugar even four to eight hours after exercising. Having a snack with slower-acting carbohydrates, such as granola or trail mix, can help prevent your blood sugar from dropping.
6. Should diabetics exercise before or after eating?
You can reduce your risk of low blood sugars by exercising before you eat and taking your mealtime insulin. This can simplify your ability to exercise without lows, and also help prevent the need to eat extra carbs during exercise.
7. Does water lower blood sugar?
Water is essential for our health, especially when it comes to blood sugar levels. When we drink water, it dilutes the amount of glucose (sugar) in our blood stream and helps lower your blood sugar levels. Drinking lots of water can also help reduce insulin resistance and hunger.
Despite knowing all the benefits, getting to the workout is never easy, but it's necessary when you are diabetic. With a 30 minutes activity every day, 5 times a week, You can easily manage your BGLs and prevent those dreaded emergencies. However, taking precautions when exercising with diabetes and choosing the most suitable ones are crucial for a safe stride through your workout.
- Colberg, Sheri R., et al. ‘Exercise and Type 2 Diabetes’. Diabetes Care, vol. 33, no. 12, Dec. 2010, pp. e147–67. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.2337/dc10-9990.
- Krishnan, Sridevi, et al. ‘Zumba® Dance Improves Health in Overweight/Obese or Type 2 Diabetic Women’. American Journal of Health Behavior, vol. 39, no. 1, Jan. 2015, pp. 109–20. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.5993/AJHB.39.1.12.