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Getting a move on

Physical activity is one of the most important things you can do to help manage your diabetes and improve your overall health. The benefits of exercise for diabetes include everything from lowering your blood sugar level and blood pressure, burning calories, and boosting your energy to even improving your mood. Moreover, if you have prediabetes, it can help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.

How does exercise affect blood sugar?

During physical activity, your muscles use your blood sugar as a source of energy. This prevents it from building up in your blood. Not only has exercise been shown to lower your blood sugar level within one hour, but the beneficial effects can last for one or two days.

What are the best exercises for people with diabetes?

Aerobic exercise is one. So is any continuous exercise, such as walking, bicycling, or jogging, that gets your breathing and heart rate up. Resistance exercise is another way to build muscle strength. This involves doing brief weightlifting with weight machines or your own body weight. How much do you need? That depends on your overall fitness level. Generally, experts recommend that you get 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week (e.g., 30 minutes, five days a week). If you can, increase the amount of time and intensity gradually. Include resistance exercises, such as lifting weights, two to three times a week.

Take it slow at first

If you’ve been inactive for a long time, don’t start too quickly. Start slowly, with as little as 5 to 10 minutes of exercise each day, gradually building to your goal.

Other tips to get you moving are as follows:

  • Wear comfortable, proper-fitting shoes and clothing.
  • Reach out to family or friends and invite them to join you. Having someone along can help you get started and stay motivated when the going gets a little tough. Ask your local recreation centre or diabetes centre about exercise partners.
  • If you take insulin or oral medications, monitor your blood glucose level before, during, and many hours after your activity to see how the latter affects it.
  • Carry some form of fast-acting carbohydrates with you in case you need to treat low blood glucose (hypoglycemia). Glucose tablets or hard candies will do.
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a session. That’s normal. Just go to your next session and start over.
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