Being physically active is beneficial for everyone, but if you’re among the millions of people affected by diabetes, or who are at risk for developing it, it is especially important. Regular movement and exercise can help prevent and control diabetes, a serious condition that affects more than 30 million Americans. Here are a few common questions and tips to get your body moving to benefit your health today!
How does exercise impact diabetes? People who have or are at risk for diabetes often have higher-than-normal levels of glucose (blood sugar) in the blood, which can harm the body. Exercise helps regulate glucose, which your body needs for energy, while increasing the body’s sensitivity to insulin, the hormone that helps your body better use the glucose it needs. Other benefits of physical activity include helping you lose or manage weight and lower high blood pressure, a key risk factor for diabetes.
While genetics plays a large role in the risk for type 2 diabetes, lifestyle changes like increased activity important to help reduce your risk. Talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise routine.
What are some ways to get started?
- Park away from the door and walk briskly to your destination
- Before you start shopping, take a lap around the store or mall
- Squeeze in a few strength exercises like lunges or wall push-ups during commercial breaks
- Walk around or march in place while talking on the phone, waiting in line, or cooking
- Wake up 15 minutes earlier to go for a walk outside
- Take a quick walk on your lunch break
- Go out for an after-dinner walk around the neighborhood
How much exercise is ideal? Strive for 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. Walking is a great way to get started with exercise! Take it slow and don’t push yourself while you build up your time and distance. Try simply walking around the block, then adding another block, and so on.
What types of exercises are best? Once you’ve built up a walking routine, incorporate the following, alternating between them:
- Cardio (heart-pounding exercise) daily. Things like brisk walking, jogging, hiking, swimming, dancing, bike riding, or using the treadmill, elliptical or rowing machine can all improve your body’s use of insulin, helping to keep your blood sugar low over time.
- Strength/resistance training. Strength training builds muscle and burns calories, making it a great way to lose weight, while improving your body’s use of insulin and lowering glucose. You can choose to use hand weights, resistance bands or even filled water jugs, work with machine-based equipment, or perform exercises like push-ups, squats, planks or crunches to build strength. Start by doing two sessions per week.
- Add flexibility exercise like stretching or yoga poses to keep muscles limber.
What are some tips to stay motivated?
- Balance your routine and alternate between exercises that pump your heart, build strength and promote flexibility.
- Find a workout buddy for support.
- Invest in fun workout clothes and a nice water bottle.
- Set a goal, mark it down on your calendar, and reward yourself for meeting it!
What about nutrition? Along with exercise, healthy eating can maximize your results. Here are a few tips to help incorporate nutritious foods into your meals and snacks to complement all the hard work you’re doing!
Remember to check with your healthcare practitioner to get the go-ahead before starting an exercise routine. And have fun!