Exercise and Diabetes

While many of us are aware how important it is for people with Type 2 diabetes to eat healthy and take medications as prescribed to maintain blood glucose levels, it is equally important for them to incorporate exercise into their treatment regime.

Physical activity is an excellent way to control blood glucose levels. Keeping your sugar levels in a proper and steady range can prevent complications, including nerve damage, heart disease and kidney disease.

Exercise lowers blood sugar in several ways. For example, engaging in physical activity increases insulin sensitivity. This allows muscle cells to use any available insulin to take up glucose during and after a workout.

Exercise is also important for lowering blood pressure, controlling weight, increasing levels of good cholesterol, building stronger bones and leaner muscle, providing more energy, improving mood and sleep and managing stress. These all contribute to an overall better quality of life when living with Type 2 diabetes.

How much exercise should you do? Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity at least five days a week or 150 minutes per week. If you cannot dedicate 30 minutes, consider breaking it up in 10-minute increments throughout the day. Some traditional activities to consider include brisk walking, bicycle riding, jogging and swimming. Strength training is also important after you've incorporated aerobic exercise into your routine. Lifting weights for up to 30 minutes, two to three times a week, is sufficient. Using your own weight to do pull-ups and pushups is also an adequate way to strength train.

Even though winter is upon us, don't use the cold winter months as an excuse to cut back on your exercise routine. Consider these calorie-burning indoor activities:

  • Walk your local mall.
  • Take the stairs whenever possible instead of an elevator or escalator.
  • Walk around your building's hallways during your lunch or coffee break.
  • Don't wait for spring for a thorough house cleaning. Wash the inside of your windows, vacuum or shampoo the carpet or clean out your closets.
  • Walk in place while watching TV.
  • Watch and follow an exercise video or DVD rather than a movie.
  • Practice yoga or tai chi exercises.
  • Toss a ball or a balloon.

Cold weather doesn't mean you have to say goodbye to all outdoor activity. There are many ways to enjoy the weather by taking your physical activity outdoors. Why should kids have all the fun in the winter? Join them to:

  • Build a snowman.
  • Have a snowball fight.
  • Go ice skating.
  • Go sledding.
  • Make snow angels.
  • Park far away from a building you are entering.
  • Bundle up and take a walk with or without your dog.