On top of tracking your diet and blood sugar, regular exercise is a key part of managing your diabetes. And while any exercise is better than none, certain activities have specific benefits for people with diabetes.
If you have diabetes, you know how important it is to keep an eye on your blood sugar and watch your diet. But did you know that physical activity is also key for managing diabetes? Regular exercise helps you control your blood sugar, blood pressure, weight and cholesterol, which in turn reduces your risk of developing diabetes-related complications.
You should aim to get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week, and having a friend along makes it fun and sustainable. Need help getting started? Try these activities to get on the right track.
Taking a walk is a great way to ease yourself into exercise. Explore your neighborhood with a friend or your dog to get your heart rate up and your blood pumping. Aim for a moderate pace. If you're listening to music, try singing along. You'll know you're getting a good workout if you're breathing hard enough that you can't easily sing, but you're able to talk.
Strength training is an important part of staying healthy, especially for diabetics. Plus, building strength makes your body more sensitive to insulin and helps lower blood sugar. Experts recommend lifting weights two to three days per week, in addition to other aerobic activities. Start with easy weights and increase the number of repetitions and sets.
Exercises that improve flexibility can reduce stiffness and improve your overall health. And activities like stretching, yoga and tai chi can help relieve stress, something that can get in the way of good diabetes management. You're way more likely to eat an entire bag of chips, drink more alcohol, or skip an exercise class if you're worried and anxious. What's more, the hormones released into your body when you're stressed can raise your blood sugar levels. Finding an exercise that also reduces stress is an excellent way to stay in control of your diabetes.
Jumping in the pool for a few laps is great for people with diabetes. Swimming gets your heart pumping without putting pressure on your joints, and it's easier on your feet than other activities. That's important for diabetics, because diabetes can make foot injuries heal slower, and raise the risk of infection.
Whether you're outside in your neighborhood or inside at the gym, biking is an excellent activity for diabetics. Cycling makes your heart stronger and helps your lungs function better. And it improves blood flow to your legs and feet. Diabetics are more likely to experience circulation problems in those areas, which can lead to pain and slow healing of cuts and sores.
Remember, before starting any new exercise regimen, be sure to talk to your doctor about a plan that's safe for you. By using Healthgrades' Guided Physician Search, it's easy to find a doctor who's the best fit to help you manage your diabetes.
When you get diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, insulin isn’t always the first medication you'll need. You may have other options, including medications—or a combination of options—that are better for you.