People with diabetes need physical activity more than anyone else. Managing your blood sugar and eating right can help you overcome metabolic syndrome and get your life back. However, if you have diabetes and are planning on starting a workout routine or want to lose weight, you need to take some special precautions and understand how diabetes could impact your fitness plan.
A study from February 2012 was published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise that found a sedentary lifestyle lead to poorer glycemic control, which can have serious repercussions for individuals who are pre-diabetic or have metabolic syndrome.
In other words, if you don’t workout and you have diabetes, you are doing yourself a grave disservice. But there’s good news: you don’t have to transform into fitness fanatic to stay healthy. In the same study, the researchers found that even short bursts of exercise have significant benefits. Furthermore, multiple studies, like one published in December 2011 in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that even just 30 minutes of high-intensity exercise can lower blood sugar and help prevent glucose spikes after eating.
With workouts like HIIT and Tabata, to more moderate examples like Zumba or lifting weights in the gym, there is something for everyone. You don’t even have to go to the gym. A combination of housework, walking, hiking, swimming, gardening, dancing, and kayaking work too.
1. Build A Routine
Make a list of activities you like to do and take that to your physician. Ask which activities they recommend. Even if you can only do 10 minutes of that activity, do it. Start making your exercise a habit, and you will gradually build up more strength and endurance.
You not only need to commit to moving more, but you also need to eat well, too. Be on top of your sugar intake. Know your body, and check your blood glucose levels regularly so you can learn how exercise affects you.
The key is getting informed and staying motivated by seeing how well a healthy lifestyle works for you.
2. Anaerobic Exercise
For diabetics, anaerobic exercise is more important an aerobic (or cardiovascular) exercise, especially if you are trying to lose weight. Building muscle is necessary for diabetics because muscle helps stabilize your blood glucose levels and stabilize insulin. If you are older, you need resistance training more than ever, because as muscle mass dwindles, the greater the chance you have to getting type 2 diabetes or seeing the symptoms worsen.
For beginners, you should do 3 sets of an exercise for 8-10 repetitions with free weights or resistance bands. Do at least one exercise for every major muscle group.
3. Mind-Body Workouts
Aside from resistance training, you also need to work on flexibility, stability, and relaxation. Mind-body exercises like Pilates and yoga are excellent choices for beginners who need to work out inner core strength and stability, as well as breathing exercises. Pilates is more muscular, but it has an impressive effect on blood glucose control. Meanwhile, yoga is great for strengthening and stretching muscles while moderately improving blood glucose levels and circulation.
4. Eat Wholesome Food
If you are trying to lose weight, you need to cut calories. Starting off with light workouts means you won’t be burning off a lot of calories right yet, but as you progress to moderate and high-intensity workouts, you will start burning more fat. Aim for diabetic-friendly foods that are low on the glycemic index (GI), and skip those post-workout shakes, which can be loaded with excess calories, fat, and protein.
Eat smaller meals throughout the day and a snack after your workout. Complex carbohydrates are essential because it will help your body recover quickly without having an immediate effect on blood glucose levels. Good choices for a post-workout snack include a granola bar and an apple, peanut butter and jam sandwich on whole wheat bread, or plain Greek yogurt.
5. The Right Time To Move
Though everyone’s right time to exercise differs, you need to choose a time that is convenient for you. Ask yourself when you can exercise and if you’re willing to do exercise at that time. For example, if you have free hours between 4-5 AM in the morning and 3-4 PM in the afternoon, chances are you will be better off choosing the afternoon time slot because it will be easier to stick to.
However, if you are motivated, early morning workouts have been proven to reduce your blood glucose response for the entire day. So, if you get up for that early session, you won’t see major fluctuations in your blood sugar for the rest of the day.
One warning: check your blood glucose. If you are low in the morning, you will do more harm than good. Same goes for Type I diabetics who exercise at night. This could put you at risk of nocturnal hypoglycemia.
6. Be Consistent With Activity
Getting active is more than just hitting the gym twice a week. You need to stay active. In 2016, a study was published in Diabetes and Metabolism that suggested that the benefits of exercise drop within 72 hours of your last workout, and a joint statement made by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Diabetes Association stated that you should take no breaks any longer than 48 hours if you want to manage blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. In short, spread your workouts throughout the 7-day week. By exercising moderately for about 150 minutes a week (or more), you can reap the benefits and keep them going.
7. You Need Rest, Too
Yes, while working out and eating right will help reduce the risk of developing diabetes and can help control metabolic syndrome, there is something else you need to consider: stress. Chronic stress plays with the hormone cortisol, which triggers weight gain and lack of sleep. Stress also causes blood glucose levels to elevate. In fact, it has been found that sleep deprivation doubles diabetes risk. So, to stay healthy, you need to eat, move, and sleep well. Be sure to get the recommended 7-8 hours of quality rest a night.
There’s no better time than now to take action and get your life back on track. Don’t let diabetes derail you from attaining the healthiest version of yourself. It doesn’t matter how small a step you take, as long as you are taking a step in the right direction. Soon, you’ll leave diabetes in the dust.
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