Along with a proper diet, exercise is a critical factor in managing prediabetes and diabetes. Having a routine fitness regimen will allow more cells to become sensitive to insulin which allows more of the sugar (glucose) in your blood to be utilized as energy and to work more efficiently. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends getting at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week of moderate intensity exercise. This is as easy as performing 30 minutes a day of physical activity.
Aerobic exercises, such as, brisk walking, jogging, cycling and swimming are some of the best exercises for people with diabetes. The benefits of aerobic exercises are:
- Lowers insulin resistance. This will allow more glucose to go into the cells (insulin sensitivity) and to be used as energy which will lead to lowered blood glucose levels.
- Increased mitochondrial density. The mitochondria are part of the cell that will use glucose and convert it into energy. Therefore, the more mitochondria that is available, the more glucose will be utilized and will further lower blood glucose levels.
- Reduction in A1C and triglyceride levels. Aerobic exercise not only utilizes glucose levels in the blood, but also breaks down and utilizes fat more which lowers your risk of developing cardiovascular complications.
According to the ADA, people with diabetes have lower muscle strength and function than people without diabetes. The type of resistance training consists of using free weights, weight machines, body weight or elastic bands. The health benefits of resistance training include improvements in:
- Muscle mass and strength
- Mental health
- Insulin sensitivity
- Glycemic control
Flexibility and Balance
Flexibility and balance exercises, like tai chi and yoga, are just as important for people with diabetes, especially for older adults. Although these types of exercises do not affect glucose levels directly, the ADA does state that balance training can help patients reduce their risk of falls and fractures, especially when diabatic neuropathy (nerve damage caused by diabetes) is also present.
Fitness Tips to get you Started
Here are some other tips to increase your fitness:
●Add exercises that are fun. It is important to not do the same boring activities daily and to add some routines that will leave you feeling happy and will motivate you to continue to exercise. It can be as easy as changing your walking/running trail or opting in for a dance workout.
●Break a sitting streak. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to increased complications of diabetes and can put you at risk for cardiovascular diseases, obesity and even an early death. Working from home or work in an office setting? Try putting an alarm on your phone every hour or so to remind you to get up and move around.
●Schedule your workouts. This will help you to stay on track with your workouts and prevent you from skipping days. Find the time where you know you will have the most energy and schedule it on your phone or calendar.
●Be prepared when exercising. If you know your blood sugar drops when exercising, make sure to have glucose tablets, energy drinks with sugar, or a fast-acting carbohydrate snack to treat low glucose levels.
●Try working out with a partner. Don’t like to work out alone? Bring a friend or significant other and exercise together. Your bond with them will increase and you both can be accountable for each other. Not to mention, you will also have fun as well!
For people with pre-diabetes and diabetes, exercise is beneficial because it will increase insulin sensitivity and lower blood glucose levels thus reducing your risk of developing complications down the line. So you do not have to sign up for a marathon in order to reap the benefits of exercise. Just getting up and walking around your block on a regular basis will keep your blood glucose in check and will start you off on the right journey of becoming a healthier you.
- Fitness. Fitness | ADA. (n.d.). https://www.diabetes.org/healthy-living/fitness.
- Colberg, S. R., Sigal, R. J., Yardley, J. E., Riddell, M. C., Dunstan, D. W., Dempsey, P. C., Horton, E. S., Castorino, K., & Tate, D. F. (2016, November 1). Physical Activity/Exercise and Diabetes: A Position Statement of the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care. https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/39/11/2065.