If you’re among the more than 28 million Americans diagnosed with diabetes, you probably know that your body isn’t able to regulate blood sugar properly. Either your pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin (Type 1 diabetes) or your cells don’t respond to insulin as they should (Type 2 diabetes).
In either case, the result is the same: an excess of sugar in your blood. But, did you know that keeping physically active for as little as 150 minutes a week can dial back the effects of diabetes in your body?
In this blog, the providers at Generations Family Practice in Cary and Raleigh, North Carolina, discuss the important role exercise plays for diabetics and the best exercises for optimal impact.
The connection between physical activity and your blood sugar
When it comes to exercise and its effects on your sugar levels, it’s all about metabolism and body chemistry. Simply put, when you’re physically active on a regular basis, it kicks your muscle cells and fat cells into gear, increasing their insulin sensitivity, so they’re able to use the available sugar in your blood.
But the benefits don’t stop there. When your muscles contract during exercise, the muscle cells are able to access and use blood sugar even if insulin is unavailable at that time, thereby naturally lowering your sugar levels. Remarkably, these blood sugar-lowering effects can last up to about 24 hours following a workout.
And, as if that weren’t enough, the benefits of exercise have a ripple effect. In tandem with a healthy diet, regular exercise can trigger weight loss and also help prevent the development of dangerous complications associated with diabetes, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Ultimately, when your heart pumps more efficiently, this results in enhanced blood flow, which, in turn, can decrease your risk for stroke, heart attack, and other heart-related diseases.
The best exercises for diabetics
If you aren’t currently exercising regularly, even the word exercise may be intimidating. But don’t worry. You don’t have to run a marathon or take up rock climbing. Getting regular moderate-intensity exercise may be easier than you think.
Keep in mind that exercising doesn’t have to be something formal you do at a gym. It does, however, need to be something you like to do and will stick with. And, try to do a few things. Mixing up your routine may help keep things interesting.
Aerobic or cardiovascular training
Aerobic training, sometimes called cardio, is a great activity to add to your routine. Cardio includes things like swimming, walking in the pool, dancing, walking briskly, jogging, running, walking on a treadmill, riding a bicycle, or cycling on a stationary bike.
Aerobic training can lower triglyceride levels, blood pressure levels, and blood sugar levels. But, the benefits don’t stop there. Research shows that regular cardio training can decrease insulin resistance and lower mortality rates for cardiovascular issues and overall death risks for diabetics.
Strength training can help enhance mobility, build strength, decrease insulin resistance, improve blood sugar management, reduce blood sugar levels, and reduce your risk for cardiovascular issues.
With strength training, also known as resistance training, you can use free weights, medicine balls, resistance bands, or even tap into your own body weight, such as by doing stomach crunches.
Exercise that promotes strength, balance, and agility
Classic strength training isn’t the only way to increase muscle strength and mobility. Physical activity geared toward stretching can also help restore balance and agility. You can try sprinkling in yoga, Pilates, or tai chi to your weekly workout.
This type of physical activity can enhance core strength and range of motion and reduce high blood pressure, inflammation, depression, anxiety, and the risk for falls, and boost mood.
If you have diabetes and want to learn more about how exercise can help you manage your condition, book an appointment online or over the phone with Generations Family Practice today.