Exercising and Eating Well For Diabetes


Chef Franklin Becker

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Chef Franklin Becker

When you’re first diagnosed with diabetes, you may feel like your life has been turned upside down. I know I did. But I’ve learned to manage diabetes with help from simple changes in my eating and exercise habits, and you can, too. Even small changes are powerful. So don’t put off getting started—seize the day!

Exercise benefits are huge.

Why work out? Exercise lowers blood glucose. It makes your muscles respond better to insulin. It also signals the muscles to remove glucose from the blood. A recent study found that walking for 15 minutes after meals improved blood glucose levels for the whole day in people at risk for diabetes.  Exercise is clearly powerful stuff, and here’s how to get the most from it:

  • The American Diabetes Association recommends getting 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five days a week.

  • Try activities such as walking, swimming, bicycling and dancing.

  • If you don’t have a free half hour, break up your activity into shorter bouts. For instance, take three 10-minute walks during the day.

  • Do some stretches each day to stay flexible.

  • Do activities that strengthen your muscles a few times a week, like working out with weights or exercise bands.

Reality check: If you’re like me, you skip exercise now and then because you’re too busy or just not motivated. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Just resolve to do better the next day.

Healthy foods have a big payoff.

  • Eating well is one of life’s great pleasures, and people with diabetes can still enjoy great-tasting food. But it’s important to make smart choices. Here’s why your diet matters:

  • Carbohydrates raise blood glucose, so managing carbs is crucial. Set a limit for the amount of carbs (starches and sugars) you have at each meal. Talk with your healthcare team about what’s right for you.

  • Healthy foods such as non-starchy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fish have nutrients and other substances that help keep you healthy and prevent heart disease.

  • A healthy diet works hand-in-hand with medication to control your blood glucose and prevent diabetes problems.

Reality check: Figuring out what to eat may seem confusing at first, but don’t be discouraged. If you can, meet with a diabetes educator or dietitian. Read up on the topic. Before long, you’ll know everything you need to eat well and prosper!

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Jan 29, 2017

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Medical References

  1. Three Fifteen-Minute Bouts of Moderate Postmeal Walking Significantly Improves 24-h Glycemic Control in Older People at Risk for Impaired Glucose Tolerance. DiPietro, L., et al. Diabetes Care. 2013;36(10):3262-8.
  2. Nutrition Therapy Recommendations for the Management of Adults with Diabetes. Evert, A. B., et al. Diabetes Care. 2014;37(suppl 1):S121-43. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/37/Supplement_1/S120?sid=5d4c76e8-a72a-4663-9d9b-702801b97b7a
  3. What Can Physical Activity Do For Me? American Diabetes Association, June 11, 2014 http://www.diabetes.org/are-you-at-risk/lower-your-risk/activity.html
  4. Blood Glucose Control and Exercise, American Diabetes Association, December 16, 2013 http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/fitness/get-started-safely/blood-glucose-control-and-exerci...
  5. Grains and Starchy Vegetables, American Diabetes Association, February 19, 2014 http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/making-healthy-food-choices/grains-and-...
  6. Non-Starchy Vegetables, American Diabetes Association, May 14, 2014 http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/making-healthy-food-choices/non-starchy...

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