What You Should Know About Physical Activity
Physical activity is important for everyone. For people with diabetes it is vital!
When you exercise you may:
- Lower and help control blood sugar.
- Reduce how much medicine you need.
- Decrease your risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Lower your blood pressure.
- Lower your "bad" cholesterol.
- Improve your circulation.
- Improve your health and fitness.
- Reduce stress.
- Reduce depression.
- Increase your energy level.
- Help with weight loss and weight control.
- Lift your spirits!
The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with diabetes try to be physically active for 30 minutes on most days of the week. In addition, resistance exercise should be included to help improve insulin sensitivity. Examples of resistance exercise include lifting weights and exercises using weight machines.
What To Do
Talk with your medical provider before beginning a program of physical activity that is more vigorous than brisk walking. Start slowly. Try to be physically active for 30 minutes a day. You may want to divide your exercise into two or three sessions during the day. Warm up and cool down to prevent injuries.
General guidelines for physical activity
- Wear some form of diabetes and personal identification.
- Check your blood sugar before and after exercise. If the exercise is really intense, you may also want to check during the exercise.
- Pick an activity you enjoy — walking, swimming, gardening, dancing or even climbing the stairs.
- Put more action into your current activity at work or at home.
- Walk more instead of driving.
- Park your car further from the door.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Get up to change the channel….put the remote control away.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Keep a snack with you. The snack should be a quick source of sugar, for example, glucose tablets or hard candy.
- Avoid foot injuries. Make sure you have shoes that fit properly.
- Wear socks that draw dampness away from your feet.
- Check your feet before and after exercise.
Do not exercise
- If you are not feeling well.
- In extreme heat or cold.
- If you have been drinking alcoholic beverages.
- If you take insulin and have ketones in your urine.
- If you take insulin and have pre-exercise blood sugar less than 100.
- If you have pain.
- If you are short of breath.
- If you feel light-headed.
Check with your medical provider and your diabetes educator for other precautions and suggestions.
“Getting enough exercise has been really tough. Everyone says ‘walk’, but with my back problems, that’s not so easy. I tried going out and walking for 30 minutes and it wiped me out! Yet, I know that it will help me lose weight, which is good for my diabetes and my back. And finally it hit me - maybe my problem was that I was trying to do too much too fast. I haven’t been exactly physically fit!
“So I tried again, but this time I started really slow. The first week five minutes was all I could manage. When I got to the point where I could do 10 minutes, I started doing a fast part in the middle. At first it was five minutes at a stroll, three minutes going fast, and five minutes slow. (And I do it where it’s mostly flat, not going up a hill!) Each week I increased the fast part by about three minutes. When I got up to 15 minutes, I found that I needed two weeks before I could increase the time. Sometimes you run into that kind of thing. You have to listen to your body.
“It will take awhile to get up to the 30 minutes a day, but I think I can make it now. (My goal is 30 minutes five days a week.) I have a backup plan for when my back is bad. There are all kinds of exercises I can do with my arms that can really give me a workout. When the weather is bad, I can go to the grocery and walk up and down the aisles. Or I can march in place briskly while I watch the evening news. It looks silly, but so what? Whatever works!”