Exercising with Diabetes

Excess weight can be detrimental to your health. Among the biggest health concerns associated with being overweight is the increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Nearly 9 out of 10 people with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes are overweight, according to the American Diabetes Association. The good news is that when type 2 diabetics lose as little as 8 percent of their body weight, they can better control their diabetes and lower their risk for cardiovascular disease. Weight loss also can lead to reductions in medications for hypertension, diabetes, and elevated lipids.¹

Benefits of Exercise

Along with proper diet, exercise is a critical component in weight loss and maintenance, and the benefits of exercise for type 2 diabetics are substantial. Exercise can help prevent cardiovascular disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, and other diabetes-related complications. Regular exercise has been shown to improve lipid profiles, which is critical since individuals with elevated blood glucose also have an increase in blood fats. These blood fats become the primary energy source for the body and put diabetics at risk for heart disease.

Safely Exercising

Before beginning any type of exercise routine, it is critical to consult with your primary care physician. You should also go through a diabetes self-management course to learn about healthy eating, physical activity, weight loss, blood sugar monitoring, and recognition of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. Once you have been cleared to exercise, these guidelines can ensure a safe and effective exercise session.

  • Check blood glucose before exercise: If your pre-exercise blood glucose level is below 100 mg/dL or above 300 mg/dL, you should not exercise. Follow guidelines from your physician should these situations arise.
  • Begin and end slowly: A gradual warm-up and cool-down period should be part of every exercise session. The warm-up should consist of 5-10 minutes of light aerobic activity and gentle stretching and the cool-down should last 5-10 minutes, gradually bringing your heart rate down to its pre-exercise level.
  • Perform low- to moderate-intensity aerobic exercise: The primary goal of exercise is better glucose regulation and weight loss. To reach this goal, it is recommended you perform aerobic exercise 40-60 minutes per day five or six days a week at a low to moderate intensity.
  • Perform low- to moderate-intensity resistance training: Both aerobic and strength training are important in improving glycemic control. Perform 8-12 repetitions of 8-10 strength-training exercises twice a week.
  • Exercise at the same time each day: A critical part of controlling your diabetes is sticking to a routine. Exercise should be a part of a consistent routine. Work out at the same time each day with a regular pattern of diet, medication, and exercise duration and frequency.
  • Wear your ID bracelet: In case of emergency, it is important to wear proper medical identification when exercising.
  • Hydrate properly: Drink water before, during, and after exercise to prevent dehydration. Be especially cautious on hot days as your blood glucose can be impacted by dehydration.
  • Focus on foot care: Proper foot care is imperative. This includes wearing correctly fitting athletic shoes and cotton socks. It is also important to regularly check your feet for sores, blisters, irritation, cuts, or other injuries.
  • Carry glucose tablets: You should carry glucose tablets or a carbohydrate-containing snack anytime you exercise in case your blood sugar drops.
  • Check blood glucose after exercise: It is important to identify when changes in insulin or food intake are necessary and to be aware of the glycemic response to different exercises.

References

1 The Look AHEAD Research Group. (2007). Reduction in weight and cardiovascular disease risk factors in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care, 30, 1374-1383.