8 Reasons People with Diabetes Need to Exercise
August 5, 2016
May 11, 2015
Although I’m a dietitian and a certified diabetes educator, I’m no different than many of my patients who are working toward managing their weight or diabetes. I’m not and never will be a natural athlete, but I’ve learned to enjoy physical activity. There are many rail trails, 5Ks, and 10Ks in beautiful Lancaster County that spur me to get outdoors—and hopefully, you too.
Chances are you already know that exercise is good for you, but sometimes knowing how and why can motivate you to get moving, just as they did for me. Exercise is one prescription everyone with diabetes should follow. Here are 8 reasons why:
- Exercise has an “insulin-like effect.” When we exercise, our bodies use glucose (blood sugar) better by decreasing the insulin resistance of our cells. It’s almost as though our bodies produce more insulin to lower blood glucose.
- Exercise can stave off diabetes. 58 percent of individuals diagnosed with pre-diabetes who walk for 30 minutes, five days a week did not develop diabetes after five years.
- Individuals with diabetes who walk for 30 minutes, five days a week significantly reduce vascular complications (heart, kidney, eye, and nerve problems) and have an easier time keeping blood glucose levels in check.
- People with diabetes who begin an exercise program can reduce the amount of diabetes medications with improved glucose levels.
- 30 minutes of exercise each day strengthens heart and lung muscles, reducing the risks of cardiovascular problems, which are common for those with diabetes.
- Exercise helps with weight loss (which also helps decrease insulin resistance).
- Exercise helps us feel more energetic.
- Exercise improves our quality of sleep.
Is There a Best Approach to Exercise?
There really are no “best” forms of exercise. The key is to get moving with a goal of 30 minutes of activity. Try to choose something you enjoy, be it walking, jogging, or riding a bike. There are even quite a few interactive video games that promote physical activity.
The Role of Weights
Exercise also can include weight training—with weight machines, hand-held weights, or resistance bands. Strength training offers many of the same benefits as aerobic exercise, including reducing insulin resistance. In addition, weight training increases metabolism (how your body uses energy), even after you’ve finished exercising. This helps you to burn more calories. Weight training also helps decrease total fat and intra-abdominal fat while helping your body build muscle mass.