Diabetes and Exercise: A Beginner’s Guide to An Exercise Routine

Diabetic or not, exercise is and always has been a positive habit. You must have only heard praises when it comes to exercise. Nobody has ever said that exercising is bad for your body. 

But with diabetes (especially type 2 diabetes), the importance of exercise increases to a great extent. You may already know that type 2 diabetes is a condition in which the body stops responding to insulin and the sugar levels in the body are not controlled. 

So, you need to reduce blood sugar levels through methods like medicines and a proper diet. This is where exercising comes in.

Exercise is a great and natural way not only to manage your blood sugar levels but it will also help you stay active along with the benefits mentioned below.

What are the Benefits of Exercise?

  • Manages Sugar Levels: Exercising makes your cells more sensitive to insulin. This means that the cells in your body will use more insulin. Insulin will absorb the sugar from your blood and use it as energy for your body. 
  • Energy Usage: Exercise helps your muscles to absorb sugar and use it for energy thus putting it to good use.
  • Weight Management: This is another great benefit of exercising. Exercise will burn your extra body fat, help in gaining muscles and help you achieve your desired weight goal. 
  • Improves Heart Health: Exercise helps in maintaining your blood pressure, lowers the bad cholesterol (LDL) and increases the amount of good cholesterol (HDL) in your body. A person who exercises regularly will also have less chances of developing heart conditions. 
  • Improves Oxygen Levels: It increases the blood flow in your body and thus ensures that all your organs and body parts receive a good amount of oxygen through the blood.
  • Reduces Stress: As for your mood, exercising has been proven to release some feel- good hormones in your body which will boost your energy and mood, leaving you completely stress- free.

Did You Know? 💪

Exercising improves the look of your skin. Dirt is released through sweat while working out and this reduces acne.

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What Do Experts Have to Say About it?

Don’t we all look for an expert’s guidance before starting anything ?
Here are some important points to keep in mind according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) for type 2 diabetics:

  1. At least two and a half hours of moderate to intense physical activity must be done per week. These activities can include brisk walking, jogging, swimming, aerobics, weight lifting etc.
  2. 2-3 sessions of resistance exercises must be done per week to strengthen your muscles. For example, lifting 1L water bottles or doing pushups. 
  3. Make sure that you are not skipping your physical activity for more than 2 days in a row. 
  4. There should be a break after 30 minutes from every sitting position.
  5. Some stretching or yoga should be added to the weekly exercise routine for added benefits.

What Kind of Exercise is the Right Exercise?

In the current scenario, people of most ages lead a sedentary lifestyle and are not sure where to start when it comes to exercise. Being a diabetic you might be unaware of how to start exercising or what exercise suits you best. 

Here are some general physical activities that you can start instead of directly hitting the gym without any medical advice.

1. Walking

Your two feet are your ultimate weapon against diabetes. You don’t need anything but your strong feet and some willpower to control your sugar levels naturally. Develop a daily habit of going for a brisk walk in the morning. A 30-minute brisk walk five days a week can help you lose weight and manage your blood sugar levels easily. 
You can even partner up with a family member or a neighbour and encourage them to add this healthy activity in their daily routine.

But remember to wear proper and comfortable sports shoes and socks before going out and enjoying the benefits of walking. You may even catch up on some juicy gossip this way. 😉

2. Yoga

Yoga is certainly becoming the latest trend throughout the world. ‘Yoga se hi hoga’ cannot be more true. If you’re looking to start some yoga in your daily routine, it can be a great physical activity to manage your diabetes as well. Different yoga poses provide added benefits of controlling cholesterol levels and weight. However, you must always take an expert opinion before starting it. Unguided yoga may cause more harm than good so you should definitely consult a professional before starting any yoga practice.

You can begin with a 30 minute yoga routine everyday. Early morning or early evening hours are the best time to practice yoga. Being a diabetic, it’s best to have one fruit or a handful of nuts before your yoga session.

3. Cycling

Cycling for at least 30 minutes daily is a perfect way for a diabetic to do some physical activity during their day. 

Cycling is a low impact exercise that helps to lose weight, manage sugar levels and keep us healthy and active for a long time. It tones up your body in a very nice way and keeps you fit and in shape. So grab your cycle and off you go!

Make sure to wear proper clothing and shoes to avoid risk of any injury.

4. Dance

What better way to move your body than to play some music and dance to the tunes? Dancing is a great physical activity and the most fun way to exercise too! It raises your heart rate in the same way as other exercises do and provides similar benefits. You do not need another wedding as an excuse to show off your dance moves. 

You can safely dance for around 30 minutes everyday if you don’t do any other exercises throughout the day. If you already have an exercise routine but are too bored, you can use

dancing as an alternative to your exercise routine 3 days a week. But remember to wear proper footwear and avoid any sudden twists in all the fun movements. 

5. Aerobics

Signing up for an hour long aerobics or zumba class is another way you can engage in some physical activity to control your diabetes. Aerobics raises heart beat which leads to increased oxygen levels and the release of endorphins (a type of happy hormone!). It comes with the added benefit of socializing with a group of people and breaking the daily boring routine. 

According to a study conducted in 2015, type 2 diabetic women found a zumba class to be

more motivating than any other form of exercise. They were able to lose weight and improve their health. 

6. Pilates 

Pilates is a form of fitness that works on improving your core strength, coordination, and balance. 

You can consider signing up for a pilates class or refer to videos to start a pilates session of 1 hour everyday in your daily routine. But remember to start with low-impact exercises

and not exert yourself too much. 

7. Swimming

Exercises are not just a land activity. You can engage in physical activity in water too. Aquatic exercises are a great way to strengthen your joints. According to a review done in 2014, 50% diabetics have osteoarthritis as well. (Osteoarthritis is a condition where our joints become painful and stiff to move due to the breakdown of a tissue that provides a cushion between our bones.) 

So engaging in activities like swimming (45 minutes to 1 hour a day), aqua jogging, water

aerobics can improve your heart, lungs and muscle health without giving your joints a lot of strain. 

8. Calisthenics

Calisthenics is a kind of exercise in which you use your own body weight to strengthen your muscles. This includes exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, squats, abdominal crunches and lunges. This eliminates the need to have any extra equipment for working out. 

You can perform these exercises with professional guidance to gain some muscle bulk and tone your muscles. And as advised by ADA, you should take a one day break between

such muscle- strengthening exercises to give your body some time to relax and get back with a lot of energy. It can be done for 4 to 5 days a week.

9. Weight lifting

If you’re not into low-intensity exercises and want to up your game, you can choose some weight training exercises. These also help in managing your sugar levels with the added bonus of burning calories and gaining some muscle mass. 

In case you do not have weights at home, you can also use heavy household objects like water bottles or canned goods. But weight lifting should be done very carefully 

and in the proper posture. For this reason, you should always consult a professional before starting any such exercises. 

Did You Know ? 👀

Regular exercise can help sharpen your memory as exercising increases the production of cells that help in memory and learning.

Things to Keep in Mind While Exercising 

  • Consult Your Doctor Once: Always inform your doctor before starting any intensive exercise routine to be on the safe side.   
  • Carry A Healthy snack: Whenever starting with some physical activities, always have a carbohydrate and protein-rich snack like milk with fruit or egg whites or sprouted dal or raw paneer to avoid any episodes of low sugar.
  • Stay Hydrated: It is important to drink water in small sips before and after exercise to keep yourself well hydrated.
  • Dress Up Like You Mean It: Like you wear a professional outfit for a meeting, proper footwear and breathable, weather-appropriate clothing is important for exercise too. You should always use comfortable sports shoes and wear socks to prevent risk of any foot problems.
  • Keep Breathing: Sometimes during strength training, people forget to breathe. This should not be the case. You should remember to breathe through your nose while exercising as it can affect your blood pressure and you may feel dizzy. 
  • Take It Slow: Do not jump into a 2 hour exercise or walk routine if you’ve never done even 5 minutes of physical activity ever before. Start with 10 minutes of exercise first and then gradually increase the time as per your capacity.
  • Do It Regularly: Natural sugar control methods like diet and exercising work only if done on a regular basis so remember to make exercise a part of your daily routine.
  • Stay Connected: In case you’re going out to exercise, always carry a phone with you so that you’re able to reach someone in case of any emergency.
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