Improving Activity and Exercise

Exercise is very good for those with diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, it improves insulin's ability to lower blood sugar. It also improves your health and protects your heart. There are many ways to exercise. Stay active by working in the yard or walking for 30 minutes every day. Whatever the goal, try to keep active with some type of exercise.

Getting started It is very important you check with your doctor before you begin any exercise. Your doctor can help you develop an exercise plan that works for you. He/she can also suggest safe exercises. For instance, certain exercises should be avoided if you have eye disease, foot or heart problems or high blood pressure. Your doctor can refer you to an exercise expert and an exercise program. Here are some tips for a safe exercise plan:

  • Select the best time for activity The best time to exercise is 1 - 1 hours after meals. This way your blood sugar is the highest and the risk of low blood sugar is the lowest. Avoid exercise at the time your insulin peaks. Check blood sugar levels before, during and after intense exercise lasting longer than 30 minutes. If you have type 1 diabetes, check your blood sugar before exercise. If your blood sugar is less than 100 mg/dL, eat a snack. Avoid exercise if blood sugars are greater than 240 mg/dL and you have ketones. Do not exercise if blood sugars are greater than 300 mg/dL with no ketones. Both of these can create problems.
  • Warm-up Make sure you warm-up even before you stretch. Warming up raises your heart rate and increases blood flow. It also loosens up your body parts. You can warm-up by walking, slow biking or swimming.
  • Cool down Cooling down is just as important. It can prevent you from feeling faint after exercise. It can help prevent injuries. Before you seek the comfort of the shower, take a few minutes to cool down. Begin to slow your movements and reduce your intensity for about 5-10 minutes. Follow this with stretching.
  • Wear the proper attire Proper shoes and socks are very important. Certain shoes are made for certain activities. Be careful about the type of shoe you are wearing. Dress right for the weather. When exercising in cool weather, wear layers. This way, when you get warmer, you can remove layers.
  • Drink plenty of fluids Drink plenty of fluids so you do not become dehydrated. Fluid loss could lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Sticking with it Many people find it easy to start an exercise plan. However, more find it hard to stick with it. Here are some hints that might help you reach your goal:

  • Assess your fitness level. Set some short- and long-term goals for yourself. Start slowly and increase it a little at a time. For instance, begin walking 15 minutes every day. The next week increase it to 20 minutes gradually reaching 30 minutes as recommended by the American Diabetes Association. If you cannot do the exercise all at once, do smaller amounts 2-3 times a day or perform resistance exercise.
  • Make exercise a part of your day. Choose an activity you enjoy. What are your likes? What is fun to do? Get a friend involved.
  • Decide where to exercise. Will you need a gym? A swimming pool? Can you exercise outside? Do you need equipment or DVDs in your home?
  • Most people find it easier to exercise with another person. It provides the support they need to keep going. Set times, dates and the meeting place. Make a promise to one another to continue with the plan.
  • Keep a record of your activity. Take your weight and measurements. See if you can touch your toes. After 6 weeks, check your progress.

How can your doctor help you? Exercise helps improve your overall health and quality of life. Your doctor should also track your progress with blood pressure, weight and blood sugar levels. Once you see your progress, it will make you feel good. You will want to continue with your exercise plan.