Health Advocate Blog

Stay active to prevent diabetes

Diabetes is a serious condition that affects more than 20 million Americans. With diabetes, the body does not properly use glucose for energy. In order to be used, glucose has to move from the bloodstream into cells. Normally, your body makes a hormone called insulin, which helps the glucose enter cells to be used for energy. Diabetes causes the body to either not make enough insulin or not use the insulin properly. As a result, glucose builds up in the blood, and if left untreated, can lead to serious health problems.

The cause of diabetes is not completely understood, but genetics and lifestyle factors play major roles. An important way to help reduce your risk of diabetes is by staying active. Make sure to talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine!

Physical activity and diabetes: How can exercise help?

  • Helps with weight management
  • May lower glucose levels
  • Makes the body’s cells more sensitive to insulin, thereby improving its effectiveness

Use these tips to help you get started:

Set your exercise goal

Build to a goal of daily exercise totaling at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. Start with a duration and frequency that you feel comfortable with, and don’t push yourself too hard!

Incorporate cardio

Cardio can be helpful for protecting your heart, controlling weight and also for managing your Type 2 diabetes risk by improving your body’s use of insulin. To keep your blood sugar level low over time, aim to fit in some cardio exercise daily. Examples of cardio include:

  • Walking, jogging, hiking and using the treadmill
  • Riding a bike or stationary bike
  • Using an elliptical or rowing machine
  • Swimming and dancing

Start strength training

Strength training builds muscle, and muscle burns calories, making it a great way to lose weight. Research shows that strength training helps manage your diabetes risk by improving how your body uses insulin and lowering glucose. Start by doing two sessions per week. Examples of strength training include:

  • Free-weight exercises that may require hand weights, dumbbells, medicine balls, resistance bands or household items such as soup cans or water jugs/bottles
  • Machine-based exercises that utilize gym equipment
  • Body weight exercises that only require resistance from your own weight, such as push-ups, squats, crunches, planks, etc.

Stay active outside of regular exercise

Even if you’re exercising, you should also try to reduce your sedentary behavior. This is especially important for diabetes prevention. Here are some examples of ways to add more activity to your day:

  • Park away from the door and walk briskly to your destination
  • Before you start shopping, take a lap around the store or mall
  • Get up to relay a message to a coworker rather than send an email
  • Walk around while talking on the phone
  • Wake up 15 minutes earlier to go for a walk outside before you begin getting ready for the day
  • Designate a portion of your lunch or breaks to take a quick walk
  • Take after-dinner walks around the neighborhood
  • March in place during commercials, while cooking, or waiting in line

Start with small goals!

We all know that we should exercise and stay active. But what does that mean, and how can you make lasting, healthy changes to your current habits? The key is to make small changes and work up to your ultimate goals. For example, add 10 extra minutes of exercise to each day this week.