Exercise And Diabetes: How To Stay Active – Improve blood sugar and insulin resistance and mediate the complications of type 2 diabetes with these tips from endocrinologists and exercise physiologists.
If you’re trying to manage type 2 diabetes — or try to prevent the disease — exercise is an important step toward achieving your goal.
Exercise And Diabetes: How To Stay Active
“The long-term health benefits of exercise on blood sugar and insulin are undeniable,” says Rasa Kazlauskaite, M.D., an associate professor of endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
Ways To Reduce Blood Sugar Levels Immediately
For example, a review published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings in March 2020 found that regular exercise can reduce dependence on oral glucose-lowering drugs and insulin in people with type 2 diabetes. And according to a November 2015 study published in The Lancet, increasing physical activity can help prevent prediabetes, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes affects more than 1 in 3 adults in the United States.
Fortunately, exercise for insulin resistance doesn’t have to be complicated. Diabetes exercise guidelines mirror federal guidelines for all adults, regardless of blood sugar status. According to the American Diabetes Association, adults with type 2 diabetes should get at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week. Ideally, weekly exercise should be spread over at least three days, with no more than two days without any activity. For those who engage in high-intensity exercise, as little as 75 minutes per week may be sufficient.
And most importantly, weekly workouts should include resistance or strength on at least two or three days, preferably on non-consecutive days. Studies show that aerobic exercise (also known as cardiovascular) and strength training are more beneficial than any exercise for improving insulin health.
Exercise can help manage prediabetes and type 2 diabetes by lowering blood glucose levels and increasing insulin sensitivity throughout the body. Over here:
Diabetes Exercise And Workout
Taking in excess glucose An immediate benefit of exercise is lowering extremely high blood sugar levels, says Dr. Kazlauskaite. Exercise stimulates the uptake of glucose from the blood into working muscles and organs. This is one of the reasons experts agree that people with elevated blood sugar may benefit from walking after meals.
Building Muscle When it comes to managing blood sugar, muscle is often underestimated. “After a meal, 70 to 80 percent of your body’s glucose goes to the muscles,” he says. “The less muscle mass we have, the more inhibited we are from eliminating glucose from the blood.” On the other hand, as we age, the more muscle we retain, the more insulin receptors we have, and the more our glucose “sinks,” says Occhipinti.
Improving weight loss According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can improve your A1C, which is a two- to three-month average of your blood sugar levels. And while diet is the main driver of weight loss, adding exercise can do much better, says Dr. Kazlauskaite. That’s because exercise burns calories and helps the body maintain lean muscle and supports metabolism, which can slow down during a caloric deficit.
Reducing Visceral Fat Belly fat, also known as visceral fat, is a major player in the development of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. “These fat cells not only store energy, but they can release a number of chemicals and hormones that make it harder for the body to use insulin and increase insulin resistance,” says Occhipinti. When trying to lose belly fat, research shows that resistance exercise is the most beneficial form of exercise for people with insulin resistance.
Exercise: Health Benefits, Types, And How It Works
In addition to managing blood sugar and insulin levels, exercise can slow, stop, and in some cases reverse the long-term effects of developing type 2 diabetes. Physical activity combats complications associated with insulin resistance:
Improve vascular health When you exercise, your muscles release a number of compounds that are beneficial for vascular and circulatory health, says Occhipinti. This means it can get more oxygen and nutrients where they need them, reducing the risk of diabetes-related neuropathy, vision loss and heart problems. He explains that improved blood flow can also help with joint health.
Reduce inflammation According to an article published in April 2019, inflammation throughout the body is a major cause of type 2 diabetes and its associated atherosclerosis (buildup of arterial plaque), cognitive impairment, and joint deterioration. In European Review of Cardiology. However, daily exercise can help reduce chronic high inflammation to reduce its harmful effects, explains Occhipinti.
Improve Cholesterol and Blood Pressure In addition to improving heart health by improving blood flow and reducing inflammation, exercise also targets blood pressure and cholesterol levels, says Occhipinti. Both cause progressive heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.
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Restoring nerve function In one study, men and women significantly reduced diabetes-related pain and neuropathy with 10 weeks of exercise. The researchers note that nerve health and function also improved during the study. This has broad implications for joint health, safety from injury and infection, and organ function.
Boosting Joint Health Diabetes-related joint pain and mobility limitations are common complications of insulin resistance, like frozen shoulder, says Ankush Gupta, MBBS, a diabeologist based in Pune, India. The cause isn’t always clear, but nerve damage, artery disease and being overweight can play a role — and exercise can combat them all, says Dr. Gupta. Perform strength and mobility exercises through a full range of motion.
1. Get permission from your healthcare team. Talk to your primary care physician or endocrinologist before starting an exercise program, says Colin Laughlin, CSCS, founder of QualityLife Fitness Virtual Training Center. This can help you make sure you’re choosing the type of exercise that’s best for any health conditions you have, such as heart disease or diabetic neuropathy.
2. Create a plan to keep your blood sugar healthy. “Exercise must be carefully planned with food and insulin intake to avoid hyper or hypoglycemia,” explains Kristen Gasnick, a board-certified physical therapy physician based in Livingston, New Jersey. Again, it may be important to talk to your medical team, as can testing your blood sugar before and after exercise. When you first start exercising, you’ll need to take a test during the workout, he says. Continuous glucose monitors may be useful for those who exercise.
Steps For Better Living With Diabetes
3. If you’re new to exercise, take baby steps. “If 150 minutes a week seems like a lot, start with 45 minutes of exercise throughout the week, then 60, then 75, and work your way up until you reach your goal of 150 minutes,” says Occhipinti. As well as being one of the best ways to get motivated to exercise with diabetes, this gradual approach to exercise can reduce aches, pains and the risk of exercise injuries.
4. Think outside of structured workouts when looking at movement. Dedicated workouts are great, but incorporating daily activities and physical rest is just as, if not more, important, Laughlin says. That’s because NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis), which includes all the energy or calories you burn outside of exercise, often adds up to more than what you can burn during structured exercise. Daily physical activity, such as walking while doing chores, taking out the trash, and cleaning the house, can help maintain health and functional mobility.
5. Start with low-impact exercises, especially if you have nerve damage. Stationary cycling, weight training, swimming, and other low- or no-impact exercises are gentle ways to speed up exercise. They are especially useful for people with diabetic neuropathy. “People with diabetic peripheral neuropathy, the associated nerve damage and loss of sensation in their feet, are at increased risk of skin breakdown and ulceration,” says Dr. Gasnick.
6. Focus on large muscle groups for maximum benefit. When it comes to resistance exercise, multi-joint exercises like lunges, lunges, rows, and chest presses have the greatest benefits for managing blood sugar and the development of related complications. , says Occhipinti.
Physical Activity Pyramid
For more information on starting exercise, see “Exercise: Getting Started with Type 2 Diabetes!”
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