Exercise and Diabetes

Exercise is a great, drug-free way to manage and prevent type-2 diabetes. Along with proper diet and any prescribed medication, getting active can help you control your weight and your blood sugar, if you are already diabetic. Those who are pre-diabetic or not yet diagnosed can use exercise with a healthy lifestyle to keep diabetes away. Exercise helps control type 2 diabetes by:

  • Improving your body's use of insulin
  • Burning excess body fat, helping to decrease and control weight (decreased body fat results in improved insulin sensitivity)
  • Improving muscle strength
  • Increasing bone density and strength
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Helping to protect against heart and blood vessel disease by lowering 'bad' LDL cholesterol and increasing 'good' HDL cholesterol
  • Improving blood circulation and reducing your risk of heart disease
  • Increasing energy level and enhancing work capacity
  • Reducing stress, promoting relaxation, and releasing tension and anxiety

The Mayo Clinic suggests that those with diabetes:

  • Check blood sugar before exercise
  • Watch for symptoms of low blood sugar during exercise
  • Check blood sugar again after exercise

If your blood sugar level is too low or too high right before you plan to exercise, hold off. It's better to wait until the level improves. This is especially important to watch out for if you exercise in really hot or cold conditions, because the temperature changes how your body absorbs insulin.

Exercise Suggestion for Those Who Have or are at Risk for Type-2 Diabetes

Including a gentle yoga practice along with more vigorous physical activity may help people with type-2 diabetes reduce their weight and steady their blood sugar. Make sure that you do some recon ahead of time if you're heading to a yoga studio or your gym for yoga class. Yoga classes vary greatly, from intense workouts done in a 100-degree studio to gentle, relaxation yoga done at a normal room temperature. If you're new to yoga, make sure that the class you try is suitable for beginners. Give the studio a call and let your instructor know you're new.

Those at risk for diabetes, especially those who are older adults, are urged to pursue gentle yoga poses. Here's a simple yoga routine that can be done as many times as you like. You can use it to energize your body and to take away some stress and muscle tension. 

  • Begin standing with your feet together and hands pressed together in front of your chest
  • Reach your arms up high, and lean back slightly
  • Bend at the waist and slowly drop your head to your knees, fingers touching your shins (or the floor, if you are able)
  • With your hands on the floor, take one leg back and bend the other knee so that you are in a lunge position
  • Step the bent leg back so that you are in a high plank (push up) position
  • Slowly bend your arms until your stomach and thighs are to the floor
  • Push your hips up and back into a downward facing dog position
  • Step your feet up to meet your hands
  • Slowly draw yourself up to return to the beginning position

The Yoga Site has simple - but helpful! - illustrations of the above movements.

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