Exercise is one of the best ways to help keep your diabetes under control. Exercise is important for everyone, and if you have diabetes, regular activity can make you feel better and help prevent complications. Exercise provides a variety of health benefits, including; helping your body use insulin better, lowering your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol, and thus reducing your risk for heart disease and stroke.
If you haven’t been active and are planning to start exercising, talk with your doctor before you begin; since people with health conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis etc. may need to avoid certain types of exercises. Diabetes medications need to be adjusted for your exercise routine. Exercise can improve your sugars but can also cause low blood sugars particularly in patients taking certain diabetes medications and insulin. Please be sure to contact your doctor for medication adjustments prior to initiating intense physical exercise. Start out slow. Try adding movements to your daily routine gradually. Every little effort counts. Try parking your car farther from the store and walk, take the stairs instead of the elevator, dance to your favorite song or take a walk during your lunch time and find a walking buddy. Try giving yourself a stretch or a small exercise during the commercial breaks while watching your favorite TV shows. Try to find and do the kind of exercises you enjoy, as those are most likely the ones you will be able to continue doing. Exercises like swimming, aerobics, bicycling, skating, tennis, and basketball are also great to improve your diabetes control and help you tone your muscles and lose weight. These activities work your large muscles, raise your heart rate, and increase how much air your lungs can hold; all of which are important fitness goals. Aim for some type of physical activity each day. Exercising every day is better than doing a long period of exercise just once a week. Try not to go more than 30 minutes during the day without some movement or light physical activity. If appropriate for your lifestyle, try using fitness devices e.g. Fitbit and smartwatches to remind and motivate you to stay active.
If you have certain diabetes-related complications, like eye or foot problems, you should not do certain kinds of physical activity. Be sure to talk with your health care provider before exercising with heavy weights if you have blood vessel or eye problems, or blood pressure that is not under control. If you have nerve damage from diabetes, you may not be able to tell if you’ve injured your feet during exercise. Always check your blood sugar before you exercise, especially if you take insulin or certain oral medicines. Physical activity can lower your blood glucose too much and lead to hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia can occur during and even after exercise. Signs of hypoglycemia include:
Shakiness and dizziness
Hunger, headache or irritability
Pale skin color
Feeling that your heart is beating faster
Sudden moodiness, behavior changes or confusion
Be cautious about exercising if you have skipped a meal. Always check your blood sugar before beginning to exercise. If your blood glucose level is below 120, have a small snack first. With certain kinds of exercises, the blood glucose level may drop even some time after you finish the exercise and hence always pay a close attention to your blood sugar both before and after exercising as well. Ask your health care provider about the best times for you to exercise.
Be sure to drink plenty of fluids during exercise. And after exercising, be sure to look closely at your feet for signs of irritation, broken skin, blisters, or other injuries.
Follow these tips to keep moving and help control your diabetes!
Reema Patel, M.D., is medical director of the Joslin Diabetes Center, Affiliate at Hackensack Meridian Health Raritan Bay Medical Center–Old Bridge. She is board certified in Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism and Internal Medicine. The center provides the latest advances in diabetes treatment, patient education and support services, and is accredited with the ADA’s Education Recognition Certificate. Dr. Patel also treats conditions such as thyroid diseases including hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, thyroid cancer, osteoporosis, menopause, low testosterone, polycystic ovarian syndrome, adrenal and pituitary disorders, hirsutism and a variety of other hormonal problems. She is fluent in English, Hindi, Gujarati, Punjabi and Urdu. To make an appointment, call 732-360-4070.
With locations in Perth Amboy and Old Bridge, New Jersey, Raritan Bay Medical Center delivers critical world-class healthcare services care to Monmouth and Middlesex County residents. As providers of first-class healthcare in the areas of stroke, cardiology, cancer, physical rehabilitation, pulmonary rehabilitation, pediatric medicine, Raritan Bay Medical Center continues to stay on the forefront of medicine.
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