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Health and Fitness News

Exercising with Diabetes

Exercise is important, but all the more if you have diabetes. Here's why.

It lowers your risk of heart disease and stroke, relieves stress, burns calories, lowers high cholesterol and blood pressure, boosts your energy level and mood, and is good for your bones and muscles. In other words, exercise is good for you. Really good. Anyone can benefit from regular physical activity, but for people with type one or type two diabetes, exercise ranks right up there with careful meal planning and medications as a vital part of controlling the disease and preventing complications.

Wonder how exercise plays such a big role in managing diabetes? Read on.

Effective Use of Insulin

Even if you've never exercised a day in your life, it's never too late to start. Someone with diabetes may quickly see the benefits. As you know, diabetes raises your blood glucose (sugar) levels. Exercise is a proven way to help lower those levels. When you're active, your body becomes more sensitive to the effects of insulin. This means your cells improve at using insulin. And this is a good thing if you're insulin-resistant.

The typical response from people when I tell them I'm diabetic is, 'Oh, I'm sorry to hear that.' You know, I'm not. I'm a better athlete because of diabetes rather than despite it. I'm more aware of my training, my fitness, and more aware of nutrition. I'm more proactive about my health. - Charlie Kimball

Use Up Extra Glucose

Whether you're insulin-resistant or don't produce enough insulin to manage your blood sugar, using your muscles during physical activity stimulates your body to use excess glucose for energy without the help of insulin. Extra glucose is used by your cells both during exercise and up to 24 hours following exercise.
Check your blood sugar levels after exercise and you'll notice it go down.

Exercise consistently for several weeks and your A1C blood test should show a lower average blood sugar. Lower A1C results can mean taking fewer medications or less insulin.

Prevent Complications

Diabetes increases your risk for long-term health complications such as heart problems, nerve damage, eye problems, kidney damage, and hearing difficulty. Want to reduce your chances of developing these conditions? Make exercise a regular part of your daily routine.

Exercise is particularly powerful at helping prevent heart problems. Blocked arteries are a major concern for those with diabetes, putting you at serious risk for heart attack. Exercise is effective at keeping your heart in good shape and making sure your arteries stay strong and clear of cholesterol buildup.

Before You Start

Because a disease like diabetes comes with risk and special concerns, be sure to talk with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine. Most folks with diabetes are also overweight, so it’s important to work with your personal trainer, who can help you develop a workout program catered to your fitness level and health needs. And remember, it's best to start out slowly and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your workouts over time.
Make it your goal to include the three main types of exercise in your weekly routine – cardio, strength training, and flexibility exercises—for the best results. Hydrate your body with water before, during, and after exercise to avoid dehydration.

Since everyone's body responds differently to exercise, your doctor may recommend checking your blood sugar levels before and after working out to ensure your levels are in a safe range. Since long or intense workouts can lead to low blood glucose, keep a snack available. Then plan to eat a meal within two hours of exercising.