Managing Diabetes Through Exercise

If you’re living with diabetes, you’re not alone. According to the World Health Organization, over 422 million people worldwide have diabetes, and the numbers are rising. But here’s the good news: exercise can be a powerful tool in managing all types of diabetes. Let’s take a look at how you can manage diabetes through exercise…

 

WHY EXERCISE IS IMPORTANT FOR DIABETES

 

Exercise is not just for athletes or fitness enthusiasts; it’s a critical component of diabetes management. Here’s why:

Improved Insulin Sensitivity: When you exercise, your muscles become more sensitive to insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar. This means your cells can better absorb and use glucose, helping to lower blood sugar levels. 

Lowering Blood Sugar: Exercise can lower blood sugar levels both during and after physical activity. For many people, this means reduced reliance on medication. 

Weight Management: Regular physical activity can help with weight loss or weight maintenance, which is essential for those with type 2 diabetes. Even modest weight loss can lead to significant improvements in blood sugar control.

Reduced Cardiovascular Risk: Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease. Exercise helps improve heart health by reducing cholesterol levels, lowering blood pressure, and strengthening the heart muscle. 

Stress Reduction: Managing diabetes can be stressful. Exercise releases endorphins, which help reduce stress and improve mood. 

Diabetes Prevention: Regular exercise can also help prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes. 

 

 

WHAT TYPE OF EXERCISE IS BEST FOR MANAGING DIABETES?

 

The type of exercise that works best for managing diabetes can vary from person to person. 

Prolonged regular exercise will be a key component in helping you manage your diabetes. So, finding activities that you enjoy and doing them on a regular basis is crucial for helping you build a sustainable exercise routine. 

Some options for activities you can start doing today are: 

 

Aerobic Exercises:

Activities like brisk walking, cycling, swimming, and dancing can help lower blood sugar levels and improve cardiovascular health.

Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise. 

 

Strength or Resistance Training:

Resistance exercises like weightlifting or bodyweight exercises (e.g. push-ups or squats) help build muscle mass and improve insulin sensitivity.

Include strength training exercises at least two days a week. 

A combination of aerobic exercise and resistance training will have the biggest impact on managing blood sugar levels and overall health. 

 

Flexibility and Balance Training:

Yoga and tai chi can improve flexibility and balance, while also reducing stress. To enhance your overall wellbeing, it’s a great idea to incorporate these activities into your routine. 

 

SAFETY PRECAUTIONS WHEN EXERCISING WITH DIABETES 

 

Before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have diabetes, it’s essential to take some precautions:

 

Consult Your Healthcare Team: Talk to your doctor, a certified diabetes educator or an Accredited Exercise Physiologist before beginning a new exercise routine. They can help you determine what activities are safe and provide guidance on blood sugar management.

Monitor Blood Sugar: Check your blood sugar before and after exercise to understand how your body responds to these activities. This information can help you adjust your medications or insulin doses accordingly. 

Stay Hydrated: Dehydration can affect blood sugar levels. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise. 

Carry Snacks: Always have a source of fast-acting carbohydrates (e.g., glucose tablets) on hand in case your blood sugar drops during exercise. 

 

If you’re ready to take control of your diabetes, exercise is a great way to start. Reach out to an Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) to help you with a personalised exercise plan and support you on your journey to better diabetes management. Find your closest AEP here.

 

Don’t let diabetes hold you back; let’s work together to build a healthier, happier future!

 

 

Written by Angus Sullivan. Angus is an ESSA Accredited Exercise Physiologist and Mobile Exercise Physiologist at Be Physiology.

 

References:

World Health Organization. (2021). Diabetes. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/diabetes

Colberg, S. R., Sigal, R. J., Yardley, J. E., Riddell, M. C., Dunstan, D. W., Dempsey, P. C., . . . Tate, D. F. (2016). Physical Activity/Exercise and Diabetes: A Position Statement of the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care, 39(11), 2065-2079. https://diabetesjournals.org/care/article/39/11/2065/37249/Physical-Activity-Exercise-and-Diabetes-A-Position

Diabetes Australia. (n.d.). Exercise. https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/living-with-diabetes/exercise/

Diabetes UK. (2021). Exercise. https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/managing-your-diabetes/exercise

 

The original blog post is available at https://bephysiology.com.au/diabetes-exercise/