Exercise Helps Treat Diabetes

Published:  02/17/2017

Get moving to lower blood sugar. Many studies have documented that exercise helps in treating diabetes because daily exercise enhances insulin sensitivity. (Remember that decreased insulin sensitivity is a hallmark of type 2 diabetes.)

Here are a few examples:

All forms of exercise aerobic and strength training have been shown to be equally good at lowering HbA1c values. (HbA1c is a blood test that measures glucose values over months).

  • Strength training and aerobic exercise both help to lower insulin resistance in sedentary older adults at risk for diabetes. Combining the two is better than either one alone.
  • People with diabetes who walk at least two hours a week are less likely to die of heart disease than their sedentary counterparts, and those who exercise three to four hours a week cut their risk even more.
  • Women with diabetes who spend at least four hours a week doing moderate or vigorous exercise have a 40% lower risk of developing heart disease than those who do not exercise

Exercise plays a crucial role in managing diabetes and can have several beneficial effects on the condition. Here are some ways in which exercise helps individuals with diabetes:

Improved insulin sensitivity: Physical activity helps to increase insulin sensitivity, allowing the body to use insulin more effectively. This means that when you exercise, your body can better regulate blood sugar levels, reducing the reliance on insulin medication.

Blood sugar control: Exercise helps to lower blood sugar levels by increasing the uptake of glucose by the muscles for energy. It promotes the movement of glucose from the bloodstream into the cells, where it is utilized more efficiently.

Weight management: Regular exercise helps with weight loss or weight management, which is important for individuals with diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes. Maintaining a healthy weight can improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control.

Decreased risk of complications: Regular physical activity can help reduce the risk of developing complications associated with diabetes, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. Exercise improves cardiovascular health, lowers cholesterol levels, and supports overall well-being.

Enhanced cardiovascular health: Diabetes increases the risk of cardiovascular problems, such as heart disease and stroke. Exercise strengthens the heart, improves circulation, and lowers blood pressure, reducing the risk of cardiovascular complications.

Stress reduction: Exercise has stress-reducing effects and can help improve mental health. Stress can affect blood sugar levels, so managing stress through exercise can have a positive impact on diabetes management.

Increased energy levels: Engaging in regular physical activity can boost energy levels and combat feelings of fatigue often associated with diabetes. Exercise promotes better sleep, which further contributes to increased energy and overall well-being.

These are the basic recommendations. But what’s my bottom line? Just get moving. If the recommendations overwhelm you, ignore them for now. Simply get started on doing more than you’ve been doing. 

  • Take a 15-minute walk after a meal
  • Walk on the beach instead of lounging in a beach chair
  • Use the bathroom farthest from you
  • Dance for 10 minutes after work
  • Walk the dog
  • Try a few wall push-ups while you reheat your coffee or tea

When starting an exercise program, it's essential to consult with a registered dietitian, healthcare professional, a medical exercise specialist who understands special conditions, or a certified diabetes educator. They can provide personalized guidance on the type, frequency, and intensity of exercise suitable for your individual needs and medical condition. Additionally, it's important to monitor blood sugar levels before, during, and after exercise to ensure safe and effective management.

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