Diabetes Self Care: How Can The Right Type Of Exercise Help You

It’s unfortunate that so many people suffer from diabetes. But, the good news is that there’s always something you can do to make the situation better.

Currently, there are 422 million people across the globe who are suffering from diabetes. Several lifestyle factors have been linked to the development of type-2 diabetes. An unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, and obesity are considered to be contributing factors to the development of diabetes.

Doctors often recommend exercise for the management of diabetes before they prescribe any drug treatment. Even with a drug regime, the importance of exercise for people with diabetes cannot be stressed enough.

This is because exercise helps control blood sugar, lowers the level of “bad” cholesterol, and helps avoid weight gain. Exercise is not only excellent for managing diabetes, but can also help prevent its development.

Choosing the right type of exercise can help you manage your blood sugar levels.

Diabetes self care featured image

Walking

Walking is the most inexpensive type of exercise. You don’t need any fancy gym equipment or a lot of motivation to get started.

All you need is a pair of trainers and a place to walk. The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with diabetes should try to aim for a 30-minute walk five days a week.

Several studies have documented the positive effect of walking on blood sugar regulation. A study carried out to determine the effect of walking after a meal in diabetic patients found that it helped lower blood sugar levels by around 2.5mmol/l.

This effect was also observed in non-diabetics. This means walking is excellent in regulating blood sugar peaks observed after meals. It can also help you maintain your optimum body weight.

Plyometric exercise

Also known as “jump training”, plyometric exercise is a type of exercise that involves powerful, explosive movements to build muscle strength. It is commonly used by athletes but anyone who wants to build physical strength and stamina can benefit from plyometric exercise.

These exercises have a decreased training duration compared to other types. Plyometric exercise improves endurance, helps burn calories, and strengthens bones and muscles.

Plyometric exercises can also be beneficial in managing blood sugar levels. The best plyometric exercises are rocket jumps, which involve squatting and jumping positions, and only take 10 minutes of your time.

A study carried out on the effect of plyometric exercises on diabetic patients found that blood sugar levels were significantly lower compared to sedentary subjects.

Weight training

The role of aerobic exercises in helping maintain blood sugar levels has been well established. However, recent evidence suggests that patients with diabetes can greatly benefit from strength training.

In a statement released in November 2016, American Diabetes Association has recommended that adults with type-2 diabetes should strength train 2-3 times per week. A Mayo Clinic journal reported a 32% risk reduction of diabetes with regular moderate strength training.

Strength training helps your body better respond to insulin, assists with weight loss, and also lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. It’s also been found to be equally effective as aerobic exercise in sensitizing the body to insulin. Therefore, weight training can be an excellent lifestyle measure for diabetic individuals.

Swimming

Swimming burns almost the same amount of calories as an hour of walking. It has also been found to be appropriate for individuals with arthritis or joint problems, injury, or any other condition that makes high-intensity exercise difficult.

It’s also suitable for people with asthma and multiple sclerosis. Swimming also helps manage stress and lowers cortisol levels.

Research has found that swimming can help lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Therefore, swimming is excellent for managing diabetes.

For people living with type-1 diabetes, it’s essential that they monitor their blood sugar before and after they swim. As the body is burning calories while swimming, the insulin dose should be adjusted accordingly.

Cycling

Cycling is not only good for the environment but it’s also excellent for your blood sugar levels. Cycling has been found to activate 70% of lower limb muscles.

As a result, an increased amount of blood glucose is utilized by the cells to generate power for activity. Due to the increased need for glucose in the cells, they upregulate the insulin receptors on their surface. This helps improve insulin sensitivity and maintain sugar levels in the blood.

The benefits of cycling are not just anecdotal. There is a good body of evidence that suggests the risk of being diagnosed with diabetes gets significantly lower in those who cycle regularly.

A study carried out in Denmark found that even for late starters, cycling positively correlated with good health outcomes and reduced rates of a diabetes diagnosis. Regular cycling is also effective in reducing triglyceride levels which usually get deposited as excess “fat” or adipose tissue.

Excess fat is a known cause of insulin resistance which later leads to the development of diabetes mellitus. As excess fat is burned, insulin sensitivity also improves.

Yoga

Yoga has gained a lot of popularity in recent years due to its health benefits. It improves cardiovascular health, muscle strength, and flexibility, and helps with stress management.

Amongst its numerous health benefits, it has also been found effective for diabetes control. It helps promote weight loss, relieves mental stress, and might potentially improve insulin release. This can help lower blood glucose levels and keep them at an optimum range.

If you’re suffering from diabetes, it might be a good idea to join a yoga class. A professional yoga instructor can help guide you through the posture and techniques for better diabetes control.

Lady on beach doing yoga

The right type of exercise can help you manage your diabetes symptoms. Not only will you observe a noticeable decrease in post-meal blood sugar spikes, but you will also benefit in the long term through a decrease in HbA1c levels.

One thing to be kept in mind is that careful monitoring of blood sugar before and after exercise is necessary to avoid hypoglycemic episodes. Consult your doctor for insulin or oral drug dose adjustment in case you experience frequent black-out episodes after exercise.

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