How can exercise benefit my diabetes?
When you exercise, your muscles need fuel – and the fuel they prefer is glucose. Your muscles start burning it up as soon as you start moving. This, in turn, lowers your blood glucose levels.
The blood-glucose lowering effect can last for hours. It will provide long-term benefits for your body and health, especially if you have diabetes.
How often should I exercise?
To maintain good health and to keep your blood glucose levels steady, aim to do 30 minutes of exercise each day.
If you can’t manage a dedicated 30-minute workout, break your exercise into smaller chunks. For instance, you could try exercising for 10 minutes at a time in the morning, at lunchtime and after dinner.
Looking to lose weight? Aim for 45-60 minutes of exercise each day.
Which exercises should I try?
The ideal exercise program should include:
Cardiovascular exercise This is activity that lifts your heart rate and makes you huff and puff. Good examples are swimming, cycling, walking, jogging and aqua aerobics.
Resistance training Think squats, push-ups or weight lifting. Have an exercise physiologist tailor a program to help you stay safe.
Interval training This type of workout mixes up the tempo of your exercise. It will get you fitter faster.
Try walking for two minutes, then walking fast or jogging for 30 seconds.
You could also sign up for activities such as dancing, tennis, squash, basketball and aerobics. These activities have intervals built into them.
What about incidental exercise?
In addition to doing a structured workout, try amping up your incidental exercise. Incidental exercise is simply physical activity you do in the course of your day. This might be walking around your office, or performing household tasks such as vacuuming, gardening or washing.
The more incidental exercise you do, the better your health, fitness and diabetes management. Aim to walk 10,000 steps a day. Boost your steps by using the stairs instead of the lift, or visiting and speaking to your colleagues rather than sending emails. Another trick is to park a little further away from the supermarket when doing your weekly shop.
Should I take any precautions with exercise?
We suggest you consider this list:
· Ask an expert: Before you start any exercise program, ask your doctor to evaluate your fitness levels.
· Alert a friend: If you’re using insulin, or insulin-secreting medications, let someone know where you’ll be and when to expect you back.
· Monitor your levels: Remember to monitor your blood glucose levels before and after exercise, and during longer sessions, too.
· Find a hypo helper: If you’re exercising with others, tell them what steps to take in the event of a hypo (an episode of low blood glucose levels [BGLs]).
· Carry the essentials: Take your phone, your medic-alert tags or card, a bottle of water and a few fast-acting carbohydrates or pure glucose. Then you will be able to treat hypos in a hurry, should you need.
· Stop and revive: Stop whatever you’re doing if you feel dizzy or nauseous, or if your blood glucose levels are above 15 millimoles per litre (mmol/L).
· Dress the part: Wear comfortable clothes and shoes, as well as dry, breathable socks. Always wear a hat and sunscreen, even during the colder months. Sunburn can raise your blood glucose levels.
Check it out: Check your feet for abrasions, blisters and cuts before and after you exercise.