Exercise is one of the best ways to help manage your diabetes. Many people say they feel better when they move more.
What exercise can do for you
Exercise is important for everyone. If you have diabetes, regular activity can make you feel better. It can also help prevent complications. Exercise has many health benefits. They include:
- Reducing your risk of stroke and heart disease
- Lowering your blood pressure and blood sugar level
- Helping your body use insulin
- Raising your good cholesterol and lowering your bad cholesterol
You can be active
Talk with your healthcare team before you begin. People with diabetes and eye or foot problems may need to avoid some types of exercise. Start out slowly. Try adding more movement to your daily routine. Every little bit helps. Here are some ideas:
- Park your car farther from the store and walk
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Work in your garden
- Take a walk with family, friends, or your pet
- Do aerobics
- Play tennis
- Ride a bike
These activities work your large muscles, raise your heart rate, and increase how much air your lungs can hold. These are important fitness goals.
Strength training exercises can help build muscle. These exercises use hand weights, elastic bands, or weight machines. Stretching helps you stay flexible. It also prevents soreness.
As you get stronger, add a few extra minutes to your workouts. If you have pain, stop until the pain goes away. If it returns, call your healthcare provider.
Do some type of activity each day. Walking 10 or 20 minutes every day is better than 1 hour just once a week. Try not to go more than 30 minutes during the day without some movement.
Cautions about exercise with diabetes
If you have certain diabetes-related issues, you should avoid some types of activity. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider. For example, if you have blood vessel or eye problems, you should skip exercises with heavy weights. You should also avoid the heavy weights if your blood pressure is high. If you have nerve damage from diabetes, you may not be able to tell if you’ve injured your feet during exercise. Your provider can help you find ways to exercise and stay safe.
Always check your blood sugar before being active. This is more important if you take insulin or certain oral meds. Exercise can lower your blood sugar too much and lead to hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia can occur during exercise, after, or much later. Signs of hypoglycemia include:
- Pale skin color
- Sudden moodiness or behavior changes
- Clumsy or jerky movements
- Difficulty paying attention, or confusion
- Tingling around the mouth
Be careful about activity if you have recently skipped a meal. If your blood sugar level is below 90 mg/dL, have a small snack first. If your blood sugar is higher than 250 mg/dL, activity might drive it higher. Wait until your blood sugar level is lower before exercising. Don’t exercise if your fasting blood sugar is higher than 250. Ketones in your urine are another reason to hold off. Ask your healthcare provider about the best times for you to exercise.
When you are active, wear cotton socks and well-fitted, comfortable athletic shoes. After exercise, look closely at your feet. Talk to your doctor if you see any signs of irritation, broken skin, blisters, or other injuries.
Be sure to drink plenty of fluids when you’re active. Dehydration can affect your blood sugar levels.
Choose activities you enjoy and that are safe for you to do. If you’re having fun, you’ll be more likely to exercise each day.