The importance of exercise cannot be overstated as part of your diabetes management plan. Exercise has many benefits that contribute to your overall health and well-being. Exercise reduces stress, improves sleep patterns, helps maintain body weight, and most importantly, helps to reduce glucose levels. Muscles utilize glucose for energy during periods of exercise; thus, lowering your blood sugar level.
According to the American Diabetes Association, the recommended target for weekly exercise is 150 minutes. That number alone- 2 ½ hours a week- can be abit overwhelming to the inactive/ less active person. The truth is this guideline goal can easily be met in under 22 minutes a day. If you haven’t personally exercised in the recent past, it is important to start slowly, and set realistic goals for yourself.
Speak with your medical provider to make sure you don’t have any medical restrictions to starting an exercise program. Then, be creative, find an exercise activity that you really enjoy (it will keep you motivated!) and get started. Be sure and stay hydrated, and consider packing a treatment for low blood sugar, such as a 15 grams carbohydrate snack. Some portable, convenient snacks may include trail mixes (with dry fruit, nuts, and seeds), carbohydrate conscious snack bars, beef sticks, almonds, veggies and hummus, raisins, or a small piece of fruit such as an apple or orange. Be sure and read food labels for exact calorie and carbohydrate contents. You may also consider checking your blood sugar level before and after when starting a new exercise activity, to make sure you are fueling your body appropriately.
For those new to an exercise regimen, start slow (15-30-minute increments initially) and find an activity that you truly enjoy. Basic changes in your daily routine like taking a walk after lunch, parking your car farther away from a building entrance, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator are all ways to increase your daily activity levels. Joining a group activity/ family friendly program may keep you more motivated than going it alone. Challenged by the weather outside? Consider indoor swimming, fitness centers with bikes and treadmills, as well as mall walking. The important thing to remember is that diabetes responds favorably to most exercise programs, not only lowering your blood sugar but improving your overall health and well-being.