Exercise Helps Fight Diabetes

  By: Dr Robert Sloan - Posted on: February 8, 2019 – All, Diabetes, Exercise

Exercise is a cornerstone of Type II diabetes management

Glucose (sugar) gives you the energy to carry out daily tasks and blood sugar refers to the amount of glucose found in blood. Diabetics suffer from too much sugar in the blood due to the inefficiency of the hormone insulin. Insulin helps the body store sugar in the muscle and liver for energy use. But when insulin fails to process glucose levels, the result can be chronic high blood sugar, which usually is an indicator of Type II diabetes.

Exercise plays a vital role in helping to control blood glucose levels. Your muscles burn sugar during and after exercise; therefore less insulin is needed to process the sugar. Regular exercise can help keep blood sugar levels in a healthy range, thereby reduce the complications of diabetes.

According to Harvard health, diabetic patients who did aerobic exercise for about 150 minutes per week had reduced risk of heart disease. Regular exercise can help you manage your weight, improve strength, reducing stress, and improve your mood. In short, exercise is medicine. Aerobic exercise involves repeated and continuous movement of large muscle groups. Activities such as walking, cycling, jogging, and swimming rely primarily on aerobic energy-producing systems. Resistance (strength) training includes exercises with free weights, weight machines, body weight, or elastic resistance bands. Flexibility exercises improve range of motion around joints.

Balance exercises benefit gait and prevent falls. Activities like Tai Chi and yoga combine flexibility, balance, and resistance activities, all of which can cause better blood sugar levels.


The Difference Lies in a Establishing a Good Exercise Routine for Blood Sugar Control

Establishing a good exercise routine is essential because then you can predict how you’re going to feel and manage your blood sugar accordingly. It is critical to check your blood sugar levels before and after exercise. When your blood sugar level is between 90-250 mg/dL (5.0 to 13.9 mmol/L), you can exercise safely. A level <90 mg/dL means your blood sugar is too low to exercise. Eat a small snack with about 15-30 grams of carbohydrate before exercise. Be on the lookout for symptoms of low blood sugar during exercise, which can include nervousness, extreme hunger, dizziness, nausea or blurred vision. Eat a small carbohydrate snack and recheck sugar levels at 15-minute intervals until your sugar level is 90-250 mg/dL.  Make sure you check your blood glucose levels immediately after exercise and follow up within the next 2~3 hours for better results.

Exercise-induced low blood glucose during sleep can be a concern. Low blood glucose can sometimes occur within 6~15 hours after exercise. Eating regular meals, a bedtime snack, and checking blood glucose levels helps to prevent this occurrence. Getting your exercise session in sometime after breakfast and before dinner is advisable. Ultimately when you exercise is up to you. Monitoring your blood glucose levels and following a diet and exercise routine can greatly help manage your blood glucose. Talk with your doctor to get a recommendation for adjusting your medication and advice on personalized recommendations.  Finally, the table below can help you manage the timing of your exercise routine effectively with suggested carbohydrate intake or other actions based on your measured blood sugar levels at the start of each exercise session.


Dr. Robert Sloan is a Senior Assistant Professor of Kagoshima University Graduate Medical School in Japan. He is also an ACSM-certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist. Dr. Sloan has worked more than 20 years in the field of chronic disease management. His previous appointments include head of fitness and obesity prevention for the Singapore Health Promotion Board and the U.S. Navy Public Health Centre. Dr. Sloan was trained at the Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute in New Orleans, LA and the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas, TX. He holds a Ph.D. in Public Health, MA in Exercise Science & Health Promotion, and a BA in Psychology.

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