A must for healthy habits: physical activity
Almost everyone, whether diabetic or not, benefits from regular physical exercise. Health benefits include:
- Weight loss,
- Bone strength,
- Blood pressure control,
- Reducing the number of heart diseases and cancers,
- As well as the increased energy level.
Regular exercise also has special benefits if you have type 2 diabetes. A regular physical activity:
- improves your body's sensitivity to insulin
- helps you control your blood sugar
Talk about physical activity with your doctor
If you have been inactive for a while, talk to your doctor before you start any kind of more demanding exercise program than brisk walking. He will be able to tell you what your restrictions are, based on regular physical activity. A kinesiologist (health professional in physical activity) can also help you plan your exercise sessions.
- Make sure you wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes.
- Wear your MedicAlert® bracelet or necklace.
- Listen to your body. Talk to your doctor if you are very short of breath or have chest pains.
- If you are taking insulin or drugs that increase insulin levels, monitor your blood sugar before, during and several hours after your activity to see how it affects your blood sugar.
- Take some form of fast-acting carbohydrate with you in case you need to treat low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), such as glucose tablets or sugar packets.
- If you are living with type 1 diabetes, talk to your health care provider about additional strategies to reduce the risk of hypoglycemia during and after exercise.
Regular exercise has special advantages
Practicing and planning the exercise
Now that your doctor has agreed, here are three important steps before you start:
- Find meaningful motivation. You want to improve your health! Why? What are the negative elements that your state of health makes you experience? Can physical activity help you improve them? This is what will motivate you in regular physical activity.
- Choose an activity that you enjoy. Walking, cycling, skiing, snowshoeing, dancing, swimming, the choice is very large. Do you prefer a group or individual activity? Whichever choice you choose, the most important thing is that you enjoy this activity.
- Plan your exercise periods to your schedule and stick to them. Be active regularly; it is the achievement of your goal that is at stake and, thus, the improvement of your health.
Different types of exercises
Aerobic and resistance exercises are important for people with diabetes.
Aerobic exercise is a continuous exercise, such as walking, biking or jogging, that elevates breathing and heart rates.
Resistance exercise involves short repetitive exercises with weights, weight machines, resistance bands or the weight of your own body to build muscle strength.
Your goal should be to do at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic exercise each week (for example, 30 minutes, 5 days a week).
You may need to start slowly, with as little as 5-10 minutes of exercise a day, gradually increasing your goal. The good news, however, is that multiple, shorter exercise sessions of at least 10 minutes in duration can have some benefits for people with diabetes.
Make sure you don't go more than 2 consecutive days without exercise.
If you can, and when you are ready, try adding resistance exercises like lifting weights 2-3 times a week.
When adding resistance exercises, you should get help from a qualified exercise specialist.
Note: You can consider interval training to improve fitness levels for type 2 diabetes and reduce the risk of hypoglycemia in type 1 diabetes.
Interval training includes short periods of vigorous exercise such as running or cycling, alternating with recovery periods of 30 seconds to 3 minutes at low to moderate intensity or rest.
If you are considering starting interval training, talk to your health care provider or qualified exercise specialist.
Aerobic and resistance exercises are important for people with diabetes