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November 2

Exercise and Diabetes

Lifestyle modifications remains a mainstay in the proper management of diabetes especially Type 2 diabetes. Generally, among most people with diabetes, there’s more emphasis on diet, than exercise when it comes to regulating blood sugar. However, exercise deserves the same attention. They should go hand in hand to get optimal results for both prevention and management. The results are truly amazing when you combine both trust me, my clients can testify. Diabetes occurs because:

  • The cells of the body becoming resistant to the action of insulin, which then lead to,
  • The body not producing enough insulin, in the long run.

Now let me explain exactly how, exercise can give you results that’ll make you smile:

  • During exercise your muscles use up glucose in your blood for energy. This directly lowers your blood sugar levels.
  • Insulin sensitivity is increased when exercising. This means your cells are better able to use available insulin to transfer glucose to your muscle, during and after exercising.
  • Certain exercises, called strength exercises, can help you build muscle. More muscle means your body will use up more glucose, lowering the levels in your blood.
  • Exercise will also help you lose weight along the right diet. Reducing your weight would help reduce the amount of insulin you need. Check your BMI here to find out if you need to lose weight.
  • When it comes to preventing the development of diabetes complications for example heart attack, exercising puts the heart muscles to work thus making it healthier and stronger. In addition, exercise helps you maintain normal cholesterol levels.
  • Additional benefits of exercising include improved mood, stress management, better sleep, and lowered blood pressure.


Before Exercising

Before you commence on any exercise programme, you should:

  • Talk with your healthcare provider, to discuss what kind of exercises you should do, and what your goals are. Talk to your healthcare practitioner about the kind of exercise to do, the best time to exercise and how it will affect your medication and/or insulin use. This is important to avoid hypoglycaemia, that is, low blood sugar. Click here to learn more about exercising safely.
speak to your healthcare provider before commencing any exercise routine when diabetic
speak to your healthcare provider before commencing any exercise routine
  • Plan ahead, this will help you stay on track with your programme. After discussing with your healthcare provider, it is time for you to create your exercise plan. Decide:

    • what type of exercise you want to do.
    • the days and times you will be physically active.
    • The length of each exercise session.
    • A back-up plan, if your initial plan wouldn’t be convenient.
  • Find an exercise buddy, exercise can be more fun if you have someone to do it with and help you stay on track; the person could also help in the case you have a hypoglycaemic event.
  • Decide how you will track your activity. By writing your blood glucose levels before and after exercise, and sometimes during exercise and when and how long you exercise, you would be able to track how exercise affects your blood glucose.  This would help in timing your meals, medicines and exercise to keep your blood sugar stable.
  • Finally, find a way to reward yourself for all the hard work you have put into exercising. Treating yourself to a movie, a good meal, hanging out with a friend can keep you motivated. Note: Do not reward yourself if you did not stick to the plan 😉


What kind of exercise will be of benefit to me?

When exercising, you should start with a warm up, to get your body ready for more intensive aerobic exercise. Warm up exercises can include, stretching exercises like stretching your arms, waist, thigh, back, calf and so on and jogging on the spot. Do this for 5-10 minutes.

Aerobic exercise should be at least 30 minutes (duration) of moderate exercise (intensity), at least 5 times a week (frequency). Examples of moderate exercise include brisk walking, swimming and bicycling. You can break up your 30 minutes into three 10 minute sessions, if you don’t have time to do it all at once. If you are short on time you can do vigorous exercise, like jogging, running or jump rope, 20 minutes, 3-4 times weekly. This would give the same benefit as the earlier option. 2 minutes of moderate exercise equals 1 minute of vigorous exercise. Note that you might need to exercise for up to 60 minutes on most days, if you need to lose weight.



If you are not active today, gradually work up to the above amounts of exercise. If it takes you a few weeks to get there, that’s absolutely fine. Do not over do it, you might end up hurting yourself, and discourage future efforts.

  • Moderate exercises: your exercises is moderate if you are breathing heavily, but not out of breathe, lightly sweating, can talk but can’t sing.
  • Vigorous exercises: if you are breathing deeply and quickly sweating profusely, can’t talk easily without breaking exercise into groups does help.

Strength exercise should be done at least two times a week, with at least one day apart. Try to work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulder and arms). Do 8-12 repetitions per activity that count as 1 set. To benefit more, do 2 or 3 sets.

Lastly you need to cool down, after every exercise session. When exercising don’t just stop exercising, you need to slow down gradually, and finally stretch. This would help reduce muscle soreness from your exercise.

So, I encourage you to get started, the benefits are immense. Besides the aforementioned benefits, it just elevates your mood and makes you feel great! You deserve it!

Exercising in diabetes requires that you adopt some necessary safety measures, you can find these here.

If you would like to discuss getting started, need help coming up with a plan and need support, we are here to help. Contact us here.

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