Activity Can Help Control Diabetes

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Being active is a great way to help control diabetes. Exercise helps lower your blood sugar. Muscles that are active can use blood sugar (glucose) without insulin being present. Inactive muscle must have insulin to get glucose into the cells.

Exercise also helps you lose weight. Being overweight makes it harder for your cells to use insulin, a condition called insulin resistance. Shedding extra pounds can help you control your glucose levels. Losing weight also helps you avoid other health problems, such as heart disease, osteoarthritis and hypertension. Activity helps lower cholesterol, another risk factor for heart disease.

A regular exercise program may help some people with type 2 diabetes decrease -- or even stop -- oral medication use. Although a few people are able to go off insulin by increasing physical activity, most people with type 2 diabetes will need to remain on insulin.

Regular physical activity can relieves stress; strengthen your heart, muscles and bones; improve your blood circulation; and keep your joints flexible.

What kind of activity is best for me?

Find out from your health care provider what types of exercise will be safe for you. The best approach is to start at your own pace and be realistic. If you are inactive, start by taking a brisk walk for five to 10 minutes a day. You can also try to be a little more active in the things you do every day. For instance, take the stairs, get off the bus one stop earlier or do chores in the yard or house. Ideally, you should build up to 30 to 60 minutes of moderate activity most days of a week. Your activity should include exercises that build strength and increase flexibility, such as gentle stretching, as well as aerobic exercise, which increases your heart rate and breathing. 

Should I take any safety measures?

Before and after exercising, measure your blood glucose level. Doing so will help you find out the effects of exercise on your blood glucose.  Do not exercise if your blood sugar level is greater than 300; that is a sign that your diabetes is out of control. If your blood sugar is less than 70, drink 4 ounces of fruit juice or take a few glucose tablets to bring your blood sugar up. It is a good idea to eat a small snack such as a piece of fruit before exercising. Also, drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. If you notice signs of low blood sugar, such as shakiness, during exercise, check your blood sugar level to make sure it has not fallen too low.    

There is no limit to the activities you can do. But to be safe, always talk with your doctor before you start an exercise plan. Then take one giant step into action.

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Medical Reviewers: Grantham, Paula, RN, BSN Last Review Date: Apr 1, 2013

© 2000-2015 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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