In Home Diabetes Care: The Importance of Exercise

In Home Diabetes Care: The Importance of Exercise

Diabetes management is about more than food and medication. It's important to stay physically active, too.

When you exercise, your muscles use sugar for energy, helping reduce your glucose level without added insulin. A study by Mayo Clinic found that regular exercise also helps your body use insulin more effectivelyleaving site icon

Exercise, together with your diet and medication, can help keep your levels in line and lead to a healthier life. 

Talk to Your Doctor About an Exercise Plan 

Before you begin any exercise plan, talk to your doctor to determine the type and amount of exercise that’s right for you. If you haven’t been exercising much, jumping right back into it might not be a good idea. Your doctor can check your overall health and help you get back into the routine, at a pace that’s best for you. 

Keep an Exercise Schedule 

Once you get the go ahead from your doctor, an important part of an effective exercise routine is to making it just that – routine. You set routines and schedules for the other important things in your life. Most people go to work around the same time, take the same routes and eat at roughly the same times each day. Why should exercise be any different? Find a time you know will work every day and stick to it. Consistency helps exercise become a habit that is easy to stick to and hard to break. 

Aerobic Exercise 

The American Diabetes Association leaving site icon recommends two types of exercise to promote a healthy lifestyle. Aerobic exercise “makes your heart and bones strong, relieves stress, improves blood circulation, and reduces your risk for heart disease by lowering blood glucose and blood pressure and improving cholesterol levels.” Walking, jogging, running and swimming are all good forms of aerobic exercise.

You don't have to run a marathon. There are many ways to get up and moving each day. Find one that's right for you. The National Diabetes Education Program has a few suggestions: 

  • Deliver messages in-person at work instead of sending an email 
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator 
  • Instead of calling a friend to chat, get together and go for a walk 
  • March in place while watching TV 
  • Take a walk through the mall, especially during the colder months 
  • Get off the bus or train one stop early, and walk the few extra blocks 

If approved by your doctor, 30 minutes a day is a good target for your aerobic exercise routine. 

Strength Training 

Strength training also delivers great benefits, it helps build and maintain strong muscles and bones. It makes your body more sensitive to insulin and can lower your blood sugar. Muscle burns more calories than fat, even when you are resting, so increasing your overall muscle mass helps you stay leaner and healthier.  Strength training doesn’t necessarily mean power lifting at the gym. In fact, you don’t need weights at all to get started. Here are few things the SilverSneakers® program leaving site icon suggest you try:  

  • Squats are great for strengthening your thighs and glutes 
  • Wall pushups let you work your chest, arms, and back muscles by doing pushing off the wall instead of being down on the ground 
  • Stationary lunging helps work the muscles in your legs and lower back, while also providing a good stretch 
  • Carrying your groceries up the stairs or to-and-from the car also counts as exercise 

These tips, along with proper eating and medication, can be helpful in managing your diabetes and living a healthier. 

Sources: Diabetes Management: How Lifestyle, Daily Routine Affect Blood Sugar, leaving site icon Mayo Clinic, 2020; It’s a Great Time to Get Moving, leaving site icon American Diabetes Association, 2021; Everything You Need to Know About Strength Training, leaving site icon SilverSneakers, 2019
SilverSneakers® is a wellness program owned and operated by Tivity Health, Inc., an independent company. Tivity Health and SilverSneakers® are registered trademarks or trademarks of Tivity Health, Inc., and/or its subsidiaries and/or affiliates in the USA and/or other countries.
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Originally published 8/15/2019; Revised 2021

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