Tips for Staying Active with Diabetes

Physical activity is key for diabetics because it can help to control blood glucose, weight and blood pressure.

Exercising can also help raise “good” cholesterol and lower “bad” cholesterol. Furthermore, it can also help prevent heart and blood flow problems, reducing the risk of heart disease and nerve damage, which are often problems for people with diabetes.

Starting an Exercise Routine

Before starting any exercise routine, talk to your doctor and work with him or her to come up with an exercise plan that is right for you. Your doctor may check your heart and feet to be sure you have no special problems. It is also advised to see your doctor if you have high blood pressure or eye or foot problems as you may need to avoid certain kinds of exercise.

If you are not used to any kind of physical activity, you may want to start by doing a little bit of exercise and then build up your routine as you feel more comfortable. Try to add a few extra minutes to your physical activity as you become stronger. It is recommended that you try to do some physical activity every day. Walking 10 or 20 minutes each day is much better than walking one hour once a week.

Health experts recommend moderate-intensity physical activity for at least 30 minutes five days week. Some examples of moderate-intensity physical activity are walking briskly, mowing the lawn, dancing, swimming and bicycling. Do physical activities you will enjoy; do not force yourself to do something you hate. If you have fun, you are more likely to maintain your exercise routine. You can also bring more fun into your work out if you are exercising with a family member or friend.

Staying Active Throughout the Day

Following a daily exercise routine can be difficult, but there are other ways that you can stay active throughout the day as well. While at work try to move about as much as possible. More and more research being done has found that sitting too much for long periods of time is harmful to your health. Getting up once and hour to stretch or walk around the office is better than sitting for long hours on end in a chair.

While at home you can also make changes to your lifestyle that can help keep you more active. One great example is if you own a dog, take him out for a walk around the block. You can also get a good workout from doing chores around the house like yard work, vacuuming, dusting or washing dishes. You can also play with your children. Try to encourage them to be more physical as well; play catch or throw a Frisbee around!

Safety Precautions

If you have certain diabetes complications, you should avoid certain kinds of physical activity. For example, be careful if you are doing exercise that involves heavy weights, as it can be bad for people with blood pressure, blood vessel or eye problems. Moreover, diabetes-related nerve damage can make it hard to tell if you’ve injured your feet during exercise, which can lead to more serious problems. Always stay up-to-date with your symptoms with regular visits to your doctor.

You should be aware that physical activity can lower your blood glucose, which can cause hypoglycemia, especially in people who take insulin. Hypoglycemia can happen during your workout, just after or even later into the day. Some of the symptoms of hypoglycemia are shakiness, weakness, confusion, irritability, anxiety, hunger and exhaustion. Loss of consciousness can occur in more serious cases. In order to help prevent hypoglycemia, you should check your blood sugar before you exercise. If your levels are below 100, have a small snack first.

Keep in mind that you should not exercise when your blood sugar levels are very high either because they could get even higher. Do not exercise if your blood glucose is above 300 or if you have ketones in your urine.

It is also important to maintain good foot care by wearing cotton socks as well as athletic shoes that fit and checking your feet after a work out for sores, blisters, irritations or cuts. Lastly, remember to drink plenty of water during physical activity in order to avoid dehydration.

Sources: Diabetes.org and CDC.gov

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