Workouts for Diabetics
We’ve often heard doctors and health experts deliver advice to exercise more. However, the thought of pounding the pavement or the treadmill step after step remains to be appealing. Yet there are substantial benefits to exercising - and exercising regularly - to help maintain good blood sugar levels without needing additional medications.
Exercise is vital for people with diabetes and research has proven that diabetics who tend to workout regularly have much less risk of contracting any other serious illness due to their existing condition. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week. The American Diabetes Association also recommends that you should not miss more than two days of aerobic exercise in a row.
A ton of research has been done in this field and the experts unanimously believe that as a diabetic, working out is a major way to lead a quality lifestyle. Sue Cotey and Andrea Harris, RN, CDCS and renowned diabetes specialists, in their research have listed some of the best exercises for diabetics. Below are their recommendations on how much exercise is right for you, and some of the best ways you can get it.
Top Five Exercises For People With Diabetes
According to the research conducted at CDC, it is mandatory for a diabetic to try to make a habit of doing the following exercises on a regular basis. The research further says that these workouts provide the maximum benefits to help you manage your diabetes, and are relatively easy to fit in each day.
- Walking — This is perhaps the easiest exercise to fit into any schedule, because anyone can do it almost anywhere. Walking is the most popular exercise and highly recommended for people with diabetes. Spending 30 to 45 minutes of brisk walking, five times each week is a great way to increase your physical activity. You can even break this 30 minutes down into 10-minute sessions three times a day, if you lead a sedentary lifestyle.
- Tai Chi —This ancient Chinese form of exercise uses slow, smooth body movements to relax the mind and body. Studies have shown those who complete tai chi sessions show significant improvement in blood sugar control. It does not involve a lot of difficult or tedious movements and is considered helpful for people with stress issues and high blood pressure. It further increases vitality, energy and mental health.
- Yoga — A traditional Indian form of exercise, yoga incorporates fluid movements that build flexibility, strength and balance. It’s very helpful for people with a variety of chronic conditions, including diabetes and high blood pressure. It lowers stress levels and improves nerve function, which leads to an increased state of mental health and wellness. According to the ADA, yoga also improves blood glucose levels due to improved muscle mass.
- Dancing — Dancing is not only great for your body, but the mental work to remember dance steps and sequences also boosts brain power and improves memory. For those with diabetes, it is a fun and exciting way to increase physical activity, promote weight loss, improve flexibility, lower blood sugar and reduce stress. Chair dancing, which incorporates the use of a chair to support people with limited physical abilities, makes dancing an option for many people for people whose physical movement is restricted. In just 30 minutes, a 150-pound adult can burn up to 150 calories.
- Swimming — Swimming stretches and relaxes your muscles and doesn’t put pressure on your joints, which is great for people with diabetes. For those with diabetes or prediabetes, studies show it improves cholesterol levels, burns calories and lowers stress levels. To get the most benefit from swimming, it is recommended that you swim at least three times a week for at least ten minutes and gradually increase the extent and duration of the workout.
For diabetics and people with other chronic conditions, exercise safety is an important topic. Before starting an exercise program, you should talk to your doctor to be sure the exercise you choose is safe and appropriate for your type of diabetes. Also, you should remember to start slowly, especially if you have led a sedentary lifestyle for a while.
Here are a few other safety tips to take into account before starting a workout program:
- Check your blood sugar levels before and after exercise until you are fully aware of how your body responds to exercise.
- Whether you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, make sure your blood sugar is less than 250 mg/dl before exercising. For people with Type 1 diabetes, exercising with a blood sugar higher than 250 mg/dl may cause ketoacidosis, which can be a life threatening condition resulting from a lack of insulin in the body. Do the mandatory five-minute warm-up before and a five-minute cool down after exercising.
- Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise to prevent dehydration.
- Be prepared for any episodes of low blood sugar. Have something readily available that can bring sugar levels up, such as hard candy, glucose tablets or 4 ounces of fruit juice.
- Avoid exercising in extremely hot or cold temperatures.
- Wear proper shoes and socks to protect your feet.
- For any exercise, always listen to your body. If you become short of breath, dizzy or lightheaded while working out, stop exercising. Report any unusual problems you experience during a workout session to your doctor.