Keeping Fit with Physical Activity and Exercise

Physical activity is good for almost everyone. It is very good for those with diabetes. Exercise can improve your health in many ways.

What are the benefits of exercise? For both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, exercise can help:

  • You lose and keep weight off
  • Make your muscles stronger
  • Reduce blood fats
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Decrease stress
  • Decrease your risk of osteoporosis with weight bearing exercises
  • Make your heart and lungs work better

People with type 2 diabetes may see some added benefits from exercise. These include:

  • Better use of your insulin
  • Improved blood sugar and hemoglobin A1c levels
  • Decreased risk of heart disease

What special safety measures should you take? Since diabetes may be linked with other health problems, use extra care when beginning an exercise program. Always check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. Your doctor will check your health status if any of the following apply to you:

  • Heart disease
  • More than 30 years of age
  • Have had type 2 diabetes for over 10 years
  • Have had type 1 diabetes for over 15 years
  • Have other risk factors for heart disease

This will help your doctor decide on a safe level of exercise for you.

What special rules do you need to follow? If you have type 1 diabetes or use insulin or certain diabetes pills, you should check your blood sugar before you start the exercise session.

  • If you have type 1 diabetes, check your blood sugar before you begin. If your blood sugar is below 100 mg/dL, eat a snack. If your blood sugar is over 240 mg/dL and there are ketones in your urine, do not exercise. It is not necessary to avoid exercise based on high blood sugar if you feel well and you don't have ketones in your urine or blood.
  • If you have type 2 diabetes and use diabetes pills, check your blood sugar before you start to exercise. Eat a snack if blood sugar is below 100 mg/dL.
  • Take care of your feet during exercise. Always wear shoes that fit. Gel or air midsoles can give extra comfort. Wear polyester or cotton/polyester blended socks to prevent blisters. Keep your feet dry.
  • If you have severe eye disease avoid weight lifting, jogging, high impact aerobics or racquet sports.

Important things to remember for type 1 diabetes: Get medical consent from your doctor. Speak with your doctor about the right exercise for you. An exercise trainer can help you with safe exercise tips.

  • Plan a daily exercise session. Choose the correct form of exercise and the best time for it. Pick an activity you enjoy.
  • Check blood sugar before exercise. If you exercise for more than 60 minutes, also check your blood sugar during and after the exercise.
  • Carry a quick-acting carbohydrate (carb) at all times to treat low blood sugars.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Try non-caloric, caffeine-free fluid before, during and after exercise. Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink.
  • Carry I.D. (diabetes and personal information).
  • Work with your doctor to develop an exercise plan and set some goals.

Important things to remember for type 2 diabetes:

  • Get medical consent from your doctor. Speak with your doctor about the right exercise for you.
  • Choose the correct exercise and the best time for it. Pick an activity you enjoy.

How can your doctor help you? Your doctor should check your health status. He/she can suggest safe exercises or refer you to an exercise trainer. At each visit, your doctor should check your blood pressure, feet, weight and blood sugar levels.