Diabetes and Exercise

Posted Nov 1, 2020
November is National Diabetes month and since roughly 10.5% of the population or about 34.2 million Americans are affected, there is a good chance you or someone you know has diabetes. Diabetes has many causes and can impact all areas of your health, so it is important to manage it carefully if you have it or have been diagnosed as prediabetic. The good news is that activity and exercise can help improve the health outcomes and management of this disease.

How does exercise help with diabetes?

It is well known that exercise improves most aspects of your overall health, so it's no surprise that regular activity is important for managing diabetes. Exercise improves insulin sensitivity in the short term and has the long-term benefits of lowering A1C. With activity, cells become more sensitive to insulin so it works more efficiently and you may need less of it. Combined with other lifestyle changes, exercise can lead to weight loss which can have a significant impact on overall health and diabetes. With all the health benefits of exercise, incorporating an exercise program into your routine is important to do if you haven't already established one.

Exercising safely with diabetes:

If you or someone you know wants to start a new exercise routine or incorporate more activity into daily life, it's important to start slowly and plan ahead. This will help you understand how it can impact your blood sugar levels. One of the benefits of exercise and increased physical activity is that it can lower blood sugar levels for up to 24 hours depending on the type and intensity of the activity. Because of this, it's important to consider your insulin dose and carbohydrate intake with exercise, as they may need to be adjusted to reduce the risk of hypoglycemia (lower than normal blood sugar). Checking your blood sugar levels before and after exercise to prevent hypoglycemia can be useful information so you can track how your body responds to regular exercise. If you experience hypoglycemia, stop exercise and take carbohydrates such as glucose tabs, juice, non-diet soda, or honey until your blood sugar is above 100mg/dL. Monitoring changes to your blood sugar levels with exercise is important information to track and talk with your health care provider about.

Taking charge of your health with exercise:

Staying active and healthy is even more important than ever, and with over 1.5 million Americans diagnosed with diabetes yearly, establishing an active lifestyle can reduce your risk of becoming one of them. Starting a new routine doesn't have to be difficult, and you can begin by simply increasing your overall step count.

Simple changes can lead to significant changes over time, and with over 26.8% of Americans over the age of 65 with diabetes, it's never too late to start moving more. Meet with a Willis-Knighton Exercise Specialist to help you start a program that is customized for you. If you have questions about how physical activity impacts your diabetes and overall health, talk with your healthcare provider or check out the American Diabetes Association's website, diabetes.org.