Physical activity can help everyone stay healthy and feel their best. For people with type 2 diabetes, eating a nutritious diet and staying physically active are two of the most important ways you can control your blood sugar, achieve and maintain a healthy weight, and prevent serious complications from diabetes. A regular exercise routine or other physical activity can also help those with pre-diabetes or risk factors avoid developing the disease.
Regular exercise does not necessarily mean going to the gym or playing sports. Nearly any physical activity that gets you up and moving can provide significant benefits to those with type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Although physical activity can help you control your weight, even if you do not lose any weight, exercise is still highly beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes.
What does it involve?
Always check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen. If you have physical challenges, consider consulting with a physical therapist to develop a customized exercise plan. There are exercises and physical activities appropriate for any level of ability.
It is important to choose a type of physical activity you will enjoy and can regularly do. If you enjoy playing a sport, hiking, or exercising at a gym, make sure to do these activities at least twice a week. Consider joining a dance class, boxing class, or yoga class to keep you motivated and incorporate social aspects. Aerobic exercise can take many forms. Walking on a treadmill, riding a stationary or recumbent bike, climbing stairs, or swimming can all provide effective exercise. Resistance training such as lifting weights can be done seated, and it can involve as light a weight as you are comfortable lifting. Even small amounts of weight or resistance – for instance, lifting your arms or legs repeatedly against gravity – provide benefits. Be creative. Activities such as gardening and walking a pet can help you stay active and healthy.
Whatever type of physical activity you choose, follow these general safety guidelines. Always begin your exercise session with a gradual warm-up and take the time to cool down afterward. Warming up and cooling down will help prevent sore or pulled muscles. Exercise should be somewhat challenging, but never a struggle. Stay hydrated with plenty of cool liquids, choosing beverages without caffeine.
A few people with type 2 diabetes experience hypoglycemia, also known as an insulin reaction or low blood sugar, during or after exercise. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include headache, feeling shaky, nervous, sleepy, or irritable, numb or tingling lips or tongue, dizziness, or blurred vision. Keep glucose tablets or a sports drink on hand in case you experience hypoglycemia during physical activity.
It is important not to become discouraged early on when beginning a regimen of physical activity. At first, try to exercise for 10 minutes each day. As you become accustomed to the activity, exercise for longer periods every day. Focus on finding ways of staying active that are safe, enjoyable and easy to do regularly. If you experience new or worse diabetes symptoms or side effects from medications, adjust your activity program to keep it safe and rewarding.
Exercise can help you achieve and maintain your best physical and psychological condition. A regular exercise regimen can reduce insulin resistance, keep your blood glucose levels within the healthy range, avoid developing complications, and add years to your life. Exercise might protect those with prediabetes or high risk factors from developing diabetes. Physical exercise can increase strength, promote a healthy weight, stave off heart disease and osteoporosis, and improve your mood and self-esteem.
An article published in 2010 studied the effects of regular physical activity in people with type 2 diabetes. The researchers concluded that regular physical activity plays a vital role in controlling insulin resistance and preventing the development of complications from diabetes. Regular physical activity can also help lower blood pressure, prevent heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems, and improve quality of life and longevity in those with Type 2 diabetes.
Some diabetes symptoms and medication side effects can make it difficult to feel motivated to start or continue a routine of physical activity.
If you exercise too hard, you may feel sore for a day or two afterward. Soreness is a sign that you should take it a little easier next time. If one type of exercise does not work for you, consider trying another.
For answers to frequently asked questions about exercise during pregnancy, visit the experts at MothertoBaby.org.