In this article I’ll tell you the benefits of being physically active for diabetes and show you what type of activities are good to try – especially when you’re at home.
Being physically active is good for diabetes. This includes traditional exercise like going swimming or playing football. But also small things like moving more around the home or using the stairs instead of the lift. It all makes a difference. If you live with type 2 diabetes, exercising regularly can help you manage your blood sugar levels and weight. It may also help you reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke, reduce cardiovascular risk factors, and promote overall health.
We know that the way your diabetes affects you is unpredictable. You don’t always know how you’ll feel or what you can and can’t do. Which makes the small victories important, even when it comes to being active. Because it doesn’t matter whether it’s something small and new, or just that little bit more of something you already do. We’ll help you start small and build up, in a way that suits you. And if you’re already doing a lot of exercise, we’ve got more detailed information to help you manage type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes.
Some people worry that being physically active will be too tiring or make their diabetes harder to manage. And if you’re someone who gets hypos, you’re probably worried about getting more. But activity doesn’t always make your blood sugar levels go down – it can make them go up too.That’s a lot of worries and they’re all understandable. But we’re here to bust these myths and make sure you know all the important benefits of exercising when you have diabetes.
Benefits of being active with diabetes include:
- helps the body use insulin better
- helps you look after your blood pressure, because high blood pressure means you’re more at risk of diabetes complications.
- helps to improve cholesterol (blood fats) to help protect against problems like heart disease
- helps you lose weight if you need to, and keep the weight off after you’ve lost it – there are so many more benefits to losing extra weight
- gives you energy and helps you sleep
- helps your joints and flexibility
- benefits your mind as well as your body – exercise releases endorphins, which you could think of as happy hormones. Being active is proven to reduce stress levels and improve low mood.
- and for people with Type 2 diabetes, being active helps improve your HbA1c.
Being active is even more beneficial if you do things like make food choices, don’t smoke and get enough sleep.
“The thought of being more active might be overwhelming, but once you start people have told me how great it makes them feel. You won’t just see the benefits now. It’s about building a healthier future too – we know being active helps protect your body against diabetes complications and can help you lead a happier and healthier life.”
Not sure where to start? Here are 10 exercises that can help you reach your fitness goals.
You don’t need a gym membership or expensive exercise equipment to get moving. If you have a supportive pair of shoes and a safe place to walk, you can start today. In fact, you can meet your recommended minimum target for aerobic fitness by going for a brisk 30-minute walk five days a week.
According to a 2014 review, walking can help people with type 2 diabetes lower their blood sugar levels and lose weight.
Roughly half of people with type 2 diabetes have arthritis. The two conditions have several risk factors in common, including obesity. Diabetic neuropathy, a condition that occurs when the nerves become damaged, can also cause joint pain in people with type 2 diabetes.
If you have lower joint pain, consider choosing low-impact exercise. Cycling, for example, can help you meet your fitness goals while minimizing strain on your joints.
Aquatic activities provide another joint-friendly exercise option. For example, swimming, water aerobics, aqua jogging, and other aquatic activities can give your heart, lungs, and muscles a workout, while putting little stress on your joints.
A 2017 review found that aquatic exercise can help lower blood sugar levels, much like land-based exercise does.
4. Team Sports
If you find it hard to motivate yourself to exercise, it might help to join a recreational sports team. The opportunity to socialize with teammates and the commitment you make to them might help you find the motivation you need to show up each week.
Many recreational sports offer a good aerobic workout. Consider trying basketball, soccer, softball, pairs tennis, or ultimate frisbee.
5. Aerobic Dancing
Signing up for an aerobic dance or other fitness class might also help you meet your exercise goals. For instance, Zumba is a fitness program that combines dance and aerobic movements for a fast-paced workout. (Also try Salsa Dancing, my favourite hobby).
A 2015 study found that women with type 2 diabetes were more motivated to exercise after taking part in Zumba classes for 16 weeks. Participants also improved their aerobic fitness and lost weight.
Weightlifting and other strengthening activities help build your muscle mass, which can increase the number of calories you burn each day. Strength training may also help improve your blood sugar control, reports the ADA.
If you want to incorporate weightlifting into your weekly exercise routine, you can use weight machines, free weights, or even heavy household objects, such as canned goods or water bottles.
To learn how to lift weights safely and effectively, consider joining a weightlifting class or asking a professional fitness trainer for guidance.
7. Resistance Band Exercises
Weights aren’t the only tool that you can use to strengthen your muscles. You can also perform a wide variety of strengthening activities with resistance bands. To learn how to incorporate them into your workouts, speak with a professional trainer, take a resistance band class, or watch a resistance band workout video.
In addition to increasing your strength, exercising with resistance bands may provide modest benefits to your blood sugar control.
In calisthenics, you use your own body weight to strengthen your muscles. Common calisthenic exercises include pushups, pullups, squats, lunges, and abdominal crunches. Whether you choose to strengthen your muscles with weights, resistance bands, or your own body weight, try to work out every major muscle group in your body.
To give your body time to recover, take a day off from muscle-strengthening activities between each session of strength training, suggests the ADA.
Pilates is a popular fitness program that’s designed to improve core strength, coordination, and balance. According to a recent study of older women with type 2 diabetes, it may also help improve blood sugar control.
Consider signing up for a Pilates class at your local gym or Pilates studio. Many instructional videos and books are also available.
According to a 2016 review, yoga can help people with type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar, cholesterol levels, and weight. It might also help lower your blood pressure, improve the quality of your sleep, and boost your mood.
If you’re interested in trying yoga, sign up for a class at a local studio or gym. A trained professional can help you learn how to move from one pose to another, using the proper posture and breathing technique.
Regular physical activity is important, not only for managing type 2 diabetes but also for promoting your overall health. If you have any other health conditions in addition to type 2 diabetes, talk to your doctor before starting a new fitness routine. They can help you learn how to stay safe and minimize your risk of injury, while meeting your fitness goals.
That’s it for now
More about Type 2 Diabetes in coming reports.