Diabetes ranked as the seventh leading cause of deaths in 2014. Many challenges are faced by diabetic patients to improve or maintain diabetes regularized and under control. As we all know they are many positives to exercise as disease preventative measure as it controls many risk factors such as obesity and blood pressure. However, exercise plays an incredibly important role in diabetes patients as it can help you regulate blood sugars, maintain levels under control and sometimes even eliminate symptoms. Exercise can increase insulin sensitivity to take up glucose at a cellular level, improve lipid profile (reduction of triglyceride and increase of HDL) and lower blood pressure. As you keep a regular exercise routine blood sugar levels can be kept under control and, in the long run, help you lower your hemoglobin A1C. 

However, when it comes to exercising there could be some challenges to be faced by diabetics. Monitoring your blood sugar should be the main task at hand when it comes to exercising. As a rule of thumb, if you are taking insulin or medications to lower your blood sugar you should be measuring your blood sugar before, during and after each exercise routine to make sure you are keeping it at normal levels throughout. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends a total of 150 minutes spread throughout the week of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity. Aerobic activities such as jogging, running, brisk walking, swimming, hiking or bicycling are great choices when it comes to increasing your heart rate and getting the benefits of exercise for this disease. 

Some simple tips for getting the best benefits from your workout session are:

  • Warm up by walking and stretching for about 5 to 10 minutes before starting your session. It is crucial to prepare your heart and muscles for exercise.
  • Wear good shoes designed to protect your feet from injuries. 
  • Do not be afraid to increase the exercise intensity as you start getting confortable with the routine.
  • Moderate to vigorous exercise is meant to get your heart rate up and make you somewhat uncomfortable. If you are able to maintain a conversation with a friend maybe your heart rate is not where it should be.
  • Some people prefer working with an instructor, so if you have access to enter in classes or work with a personal trainer you will probably take more advantage of your workout. 

To maintain good glucose levels before, during and after your exercise and avoid any hypoglycemic episodes it is important to follow the following recommendations:

  • Eat a small meal 45 to 60 min before exercise. This meal should include a good source of carbohydrate such a whole wheat bread, oatmeal or cereal and a source of protein such as almond butter, eggs, turkey or cheese slices and protein shake or protein bar.
  • Check your blood sugar prior, during and after exercise. Do not start exercising if your levels are not within a normal range. Adjust your insulin or eat some carbohydrate snack to accomplish a good glucose level throughout the workout.
  • Always keep a snack with you in case of hypoglycemia such as a granola bar, banana, juice, or glucose tablets.
  • It is also important to keep hydration up before, during and after exercise. Drinking sport drinks could be good idea if you are working out more than 90 minutes, otherwise stick with water.

In general when it comes to managing diabetes it is recommended that you follow a good meal plan as it is the key to maintaining blood sugars in check and prevent disturbances: Eat three meals a day and avoid skipping meals, include a source of carbohydrate, protein and unsaturated or monounsaturated fats in every meal, limit sugar and sugary foods and reduce salt in the diet to less of 4 gm. 

Exercise is also important to maintain good body weight and regular practice is required as metabolic effects in diabetes are drastically reduced 3 to 10 days after stopping exercise. Never forget to consult with your doctor before you start any exercise routine and stick with his or her recommendations. You are in control of your health so take action now!