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Exercise and Diabetes

By: Justin Cordova, PTA

Diabetes is one of the leading causes of disability and death in the United States. However, making some healthy changes to your lifestyle can lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes or further complications.

Regardless of the type of diabetes you have, regular physical activity is an important component of your health and wellness. When you’re active, your cells become more sensitive to insulin, so it works more effectively. Light walking is a great place to start; set a goal to walk a specific amount of time or distance each day, and find a buddy to walk with or keep you accountable. Eventually, you should aim to perform aerobic exercise 3-5 days a week and resistance training for all major muscle groups 2-3 days per week. Resistance training has been shown to improve strength and endurance, improve body composition, decrease risk for cardiovascular disease and improve glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity.

You should also work on becoming familiar with how your blood sugar responds to exercise. Checking your blood sugar more frequently will help you understand how your body reacts. Some general safety guidelines to follow when starting an exercise program are:

Do not begin exercising if your blood sugar is below 100 or above 250 

If you are sick or have an infection, you should not exercise until you are feeling better as illness can affect blood sugar.

Bring a carbohydrate snack with you when you exercise in case sugar level drops too low after you exercise.

If you take insulin do not take your shot in a part of the body you’ll be using heavily during exercise. For example, do not take your shot in the thigh if you plan to run.

Make sure to check with your doctor so that you know you’re healthy enough to begin certain types of strenuous exercise.

Talk to your diabetes care team to find out if you are at risk of low blood sugar with exercise and plan strategies for testing. A change in physical activity, no matter how small, can improve your overall health, get moving today!