Exercise and diabetes: How and why you should keep moving
February 3, 2021
Regular physical exercise is known to have many health benefits including promoting weight loss, improving blood pressure, lowering rates of heart disease and cancer, improving energy levels and strengthening bones. For people living with Type 2 diabetes, exercise can also improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin and help manage blood sugar levels.1
But remember, before you embark on any new exercise program it’s very important to speak with your health-care team to determine what kind of exercise is right for you, how much you should be doing and what precautions you should take to ensure that your workouts are safe. If you’re living with Type 1 diabetes, it’s especially important to discuss the risk of low blood sugar during and after exercise.
Diabetes Canada also recommends that if you take insulin or any medications that increase insulin levels, you should monitor your blood sugar before, during and many hours after you exercise to see how affects your blood sugar levels. Always listen to your body and stop if you are very short of breath, have chest or arm pain, joint pain or experience episodes of light headedness (all of which you should report to your doctor). A MedicAlert bracelet or necklace (or other similar system) can help in an emergency, as can carrying some form of fast-acting carbohydrate with you, like glucose tablets or hard candies in case you need to treat low blood sugar.
Once you’re cleared to start, go ahead and get moving! If you’re able, your goal should be to complete 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise each week, which is equivalent to 30 minutes, five days a week. But once again, make sure to discuss your exercise plan with your medical team to ensure that it’s right for you.
This handy guide from Diabetes Canada offers a sample exercise plan, explains how to determine the levels of intensity, discusses benefits of exercise for those living with diabetes and includes tips to keep help you motivated.
Brisk daily walks are a great way to ease into regular exercise, although the including resistance training two to three times per week is important because it uses more muscles than just walking, and helps your body burn calories at rest throughout the day.
While you may still require insulin or medication to control your blood sugar, regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do to help lower your blood sugar. It can be incredibly empowering to experience the benefits of moving your body.
If you’re worried about motivation and sticking to a plan, ask someone in your family or a friend to join you! Everyone can benefit from more physical activity and walking together is a great way to connect and relieve stress while reaping the benefits of moving your body.