Just a Little Exercise is Essential for Successful Diabetes Management

Staying active is an essential part of successful diabetes management. Not only does regular physical activity have a range of health benefits, it can also enhance motivation and energy to help you cope with the daily challenges of diabetes.

Regular exercise can help:

  • Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight
  • Improve blood sugar regulation (lowering blood sugar within an hour of starting to exercise)
  • Reduce your risk of diabetes complications, such as cardiovascular disease
  • Increase circulation and immunity for better healing
  • Enhance your ability to cope with stress
  • Support musculoskeletal health
  • Boost mood, motivation and cognition
  • Raise energy levels.

Modest weight loss and physical activity have been shown to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 58% in those at high risk of the disease.  But, what if exercise is a struggle and you just can’t face going to the gym? Thankfully, there are simple ways to add exercise to your life, without having to become a gym rat.

Modest weight loss and physical activity have been shown to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 58%

Simple Exercise Ideas

The best approach to starting an exercise regime is to find your current comfort level and push yourself a little bit beyond that, creating steady improvements in muscle tone and energy.

Begin to build exercise into your day by:

  • Taking the stairs at work
  • Getting off transit a stop early
  • Walking across the office instead of emailing your colleague
  • Walking the kids to school
  • Taking a 15-40 minute walk after your evening meal to balance blood sugar and get your heart pumping

Stepping It Up

Once you become more comfortable with exercising you can try switching your weekend brunch with friends to a forest walk or hike, suggest an outing to a local botanical garden instead of sitting in the theatre, or take the kids for a swim at the beach or local pool. If you like to combine mental and physical challenges, then take up geocaching or orienteering, sign up for a neighbourhood scavenger hunt or take a walking tour to find out more about where you live.

In summer, take family or friends to a “you-pick” farm and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’re burning calories simply picking berries and fruit (and you’ll have a healthy haul to show for it!). Work yourself up to cycling, brisk walking, or skiing, and add in resistance training (using weights or your own body weight).

Resistance training is great for those with diabetes as it helps to build and maintain muscle and thereby improve insulin response and blood glucose regulation. It’s also a nice way to round off a run or brisk walk by doing some repetitions using free weights at home or in the gym. If you don’t have hand weights then fill up a couple of water bottles or even use cans of beans to use as lighter weights. That way, you can do a few sets of reps and tone up those arms while you’re sitting at your desk.

Keep it safe

It’s important to discuss any new exercise regime with your healthcare provider first, as exercise lowers blood sugar, meaning that close monitoring of blood glucose is vital and medications may need altering to avoid blood sugar dropping too low.

Getting active doesn’t mean slogging it out on the treadmill.

Getting up and active doesn’t mean slogging it out on the treadmill day after day and there are plenty of ways to exercise without it seeming like a chore. It’s important to exercise in ways that appeal to you, and if you find it hard to exercise by yourself take a buddy mall-walking, or use your dog as an energetic hiking motivator. Talk to your health care provider about designing an exercise plan that’s perfect for you and you’ll soon see the benefits for blood glucose control, higher energy, and enhanced mood!