Diabetes and Exercise
“How Does Exercise Help Diabetes?” is one of the most common questions among diabetic patients. Exercise is one of the best ways to improve your overall health. Research has repeatedly shown that it can help diabetics bring their diabetes under control through a variety of body mechanisms. There is also a deep connection between exercise and type 2 diabetes prevention as a fit and healthy body isn’t prone to lifestyle disorders like diabetes.
Experts agree that to move the needle on diabetes through exercise, you need do either do:
In addition to this, you should add flexibility and strength training to your routine:
Work with your diabetes educator or your doctor to create a plan that works for you. Here are some ideas of activities that could fall in different categories:
Getting started is the important thing—any exercise is better than no activity! Here are a few ideas that are easy to incorporate into your daily life and can go a long way to helping you achieve your goals.
The U.S. Surgeon General’s report recommends that most people accumulate at least 30 min of moderate-intensity activity on most, ideally all, days of the week. However, many people find it easier to schedule fewer longer sessions rather than five or more weekly shorter sessions. Ideally, there should not be more than two consecutive days without aerobic physical activity.
Being sensitive to exercise means that your blood glucose has a tendency to drop suddenly when you exercise and your insulin sensitivity improves. You could feel any of these symptoms, suddenly.
Any time is a good time! You will get healthy and fit no matter when you work out, but here are some important things to consider:
Aerobic training involves continuous activity of multiple large muscle groups, whereas strength training involves isolated, brief activity of single muscle groups. All of the activities we have suggested above are aerobic activities. The first exercise advice that most doctors give you is usually aerobic exercise related. This is because it also increases cardio-respiratory fitness and has been proven over the years to reduce diabetes lab markers, including HbA1c and cholesterol in various studies.
Strength training increases muscle strength and endurance. For the point of view of diabetes, it is also equally effective in reducing the very same lab markers – HbA1c, bad cholesterol, etc. Insulin resistance responds well to strength training or using weights. The reason this kind of exercise is not easily recommended by your doctor is because if you have never done it in your life, it is better done under supervision to avoid injuries. Not everyone has access to a trainer or can afford one, so it is not freely recommended to diabetics.
A meta study (a study of other research studies on the subject) of the effects of exercise on diabetes was conducted by the American Diabetes Association in 2006. It showed that the combined effect of using aerobic exercise and resistance training in combination may well be the best of both worlds for diabetics. So, if you are someone who is either familiar with exercising with weights or have access to a local gym or center where someone can teach you the correct form, you should consider adding it to your routine twice a week. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) using weights can really help you hasten your progress on diabetes.
Here are some examples of strength training activities you could do
Put your weekly goals in writing! Experts recommend that you write down your weekly goals and immediately reschedule any sessions that you miss. Keeping to a schedule and tracking your progress is a huge factor to success. As always, be sure to check with your doctor before you begin exercising.
|Day||Activity||Suggested Time of Day||Amount|
|Monday||Walk after lunch||Noon||20 minutes|
|Tuesday||Stretch||Before dinner||10 minutes|
|Strength Training||15 minutes|
|Wednesday||Stretch class||12:30 pm||45 minutes|
|Thursday||Stretch||Before bed||10 minutes|
|Strength Training||15 minutes|
|Friday||Stretch||5:00 pm||10 minutes|
|Walk home||45 minutes|
|Saturday||Walk to Grocery Store
|Sunday||Stretch||9:30 am||10 minutes|
|Walk in park||30 minutes|
|Type of exercise||Intensity||Duration / week||Frequency|
|Resistance (multi joint exercises,
progressive, large muscle groups)
|Moderate to vigorous
1–2 min rest intervals
|60 min||2 or more times/week|
|FREE WEIGHT||MACHINE BASED||BODY WEIGHT|
|Chest||Supine bench press||Seated chess press||Push ups|
|Back||Bent-over Barbell rows||Lat pulldown||Pull ups|
|Shoulders||Dumbbells lateral raise||Shoulder press||Arm circles|
|Biceps||Barbell / dumbbell curls||Cable curls||Reverse grill pull ups|
|Triceps||Dumbbell kickbacks||Press downs||Dips|
|Abdomen||Weighted crunches||Seated “Abs” machines||Crunches, prone planks|
|Quadriceps||Back squats||Leg Extension||Body weight lunges|
|Hamstrings||Stiff-leg deadlifts||Leg Curls||Hip ups|
For the items marked as “Strength Training” in the table above, you can pick from the exercises below. Experts advice that it is best to start with the larger muscle groups (stronger) such as your chest, legs, etc. and then rotate among the muscle groups, for best results.
Diabetes is a dietary disorder and having the right diet is a huge component of being able to progress towards reversing it. While we have suggested that you keep short acting carbs handy during exercise to prevent any incidents of low blood sugar, you also need to have the right amount of proteins and good fats in your diet to make your exercise work for you. A good quality protein powder shake, with the least added sugars, can go a long way in helping you build lean muscle (that burns sugar and fat better).
Once you start you’ll multiply your chances of success by sticking to your plan. Here are some of the best tips from the veterans.
So, there you have it. Everything you need to understand how does exercise help diabetes and get it under control. There is a tangible connection between exercise and diabetes sugar levels and the more active you get, the better your condition will become. Remember that everyone can share the joy of movement. You’ll feel more alive when you’re physically active. You will have more energy, a brighter outlook and be able to join the growing band of people who understand that they can actually reverse their diabetes – through the simple acts of eating right, lowering stress, losing weight and getting the right exercise.
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