Exercising regularly is important for those of all ages. Getting your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week can help reduce the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke, strengthen bones, improve flexibility, keep weight in a healthy range, and can even lift your mood. Studies have also shown that exercise can help keep your brain healthy and your memory sharp as you age, lowering the risk for dementia by 35%.
If you have diabetes, regular exercise has even more added benefits. For instance, as it lowers your stress levels, it can lower your blood sugar levels, too.
Diabetes and Exercise – What are the Benefits?
Exercise helps your body use insulin and control blood glucose levels because as you exercise, cells in your muscles are using more sugar and oxygen than when you are inactive. As you work out, it’s common for blood sugar levels to drop. Specifically in people with type 2 diabetes, exercise can improve insulin sensitivity as well as help lower elevated blood glucose levels to keep them in the normal range.
This is because your body uses up to 20% more oxygen when you exercise. Your working muscles use more glucose to help meet their increased energy needs. Exercise allows insulin in the muscles to be more efficient, which means you’re getting more out of the insulin your body produces.
The Best Exercises for Diabetics
Some of the best exercises for diabetics to take part in regularly include:
- Walking: Walking is a popular activity that can be done virtually anywhere, making it easy to accomplish on a regular basis. Three times a week, try to get in at least thirty minutes of brisk walking.
- Swimming: Swimming is another aerobic exercise recommended for diabetics, because it can improve cholesterol levels, burn calories and lower stress. It’s a great activity for those with joint pain, because it alleviates pressure on the joints while stretching and relaxing the muscles.
- Yoga: Yoga offers a variety of benefits for people with chronic conditions, including diabetes. Because it improves muscle mass, it can improve blood glucose levels. Yoga also lowers stress, improves nerve function, and is well-known to improve mental health and wellness.
- Dancing: Dancing is a great exercise for diabetics, because as it increases your physical activity it promotes weight loss, improves your flexibility, reduces stress and lowers blood sugar. Plus, the mental work involved with memorizing the steps is great for your brain and memory, too!
Before starting any new workout regimen, talk to your doctor so you can be sure the exercise you choose is appropriate and safe for the type of diabetes you have. If you haven’t been active in a while, start off slowly, being active for 10 minutes at a time three times a day until you can go for a full 30 minutes.
Make sure you check your blood sugar before and after you exercise to learn how your body reacts to physical activity. Regardless of whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, your blood sugar should be less than 250 mg/dl before exercising. As you exercise, you should be prepared for any episodes of low blood sugar, too; keep some hard candy or some juice handy so you can bring your levels back up if needed. Remember to stay hydrated; drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout.