Exercise, Health & Diabetes

How are exercise and health related?  What effect does exercise have on diabetes?  Is it safe for diabetics to engage in routine workout programs?  If so, are certain exercises recommended over others for individuals who suffer from diabetes?

Exercise and Health
Exercise and good health go hand-in-hand.  Cardio exercises promote a strong, healthy heart.  Weight-bearing exercises strengthen muscles and bones.  Stretching exercises lead to flexibility and long, lean muscles.  Balance exercises are essential to improving one’s balance and to maintaining good balance.  

Regular exercise helps control body weight.  It helps to relieve stress and prevent depression.  Exercise helps to ward off diseases, INCLUDING diabetes!  By keeping the body in good physical shape through exercise, many injuries may be prevented.  

To achieve and maintain good overall health, experts recommend that you perform at least 20 to 30 minutes of cardio exercise no less than 3 times per week.  Strength training exercises and stretching exercises should be performed at least twice per week. 

The Effect of Exercise on Diabetes
Individuals who are sedentary and overweight are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who exercise regularly and maintain a lean body mass.  By the same token, those who are active and maintain a healthy weight are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes (the most common type). 

According to the American Diabetes Association, tests on more than 3,900 men and women have found that “those who had been out of shape in their 20s were two to three times as likely to develop diabetes over two decades as those who had been fit.  An even better predictor of middle-aged diabetes was the participants’ body mass index at the outset.”

Exercise not only helps to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes, it can also help to prevent serious diabetes complications among those who already suffer from this life-threatening disease.

Diabetics benefit greatly from exercise and are encouraged to engage in moderate-intensity activity on a regular basis.  (Five or more times per week is recommended for at least 30 minutes each session.) 

Through routine physical activity, diabetics may be better able to control their blood glucose levels, as well as their weight and blood pressure.  Cholesterol may be kept at healthy levels (raising the good cholesterol and lowering the bad).  The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion informs that exercise “can also help prevent heart and blood flow problems, reducing your risk of heart disease and nerve damage, which are often problems for people with diabetes.”

What Exercises are Recommended for Diabetics?
Walking is typically the most popular and most convenient type of exercise for the majority of individuals, including diabetics.  However, any kind of regular exercise that increases the heart rate for at least 20 minutes is beneficial.

The exercise recommendations for healthy individuals also apply for those who suffer from diabetes.  In addition to walking, routine cardio workouts such as swimming, bicycling, jogging, or dancing are suggested.  Even such activities as gardening can produce health benefits.

Strength training exercises are also recommended for diabetics.  A body with more lean muscle tissue will burn calories and fat more efficiently, thus making it easier to control one’s weight.  Weight management is crucial to controlling diabetic symptoms.

Exercise Precautions for Diabetics
Anyone, before beginning an exercise program, should consult a health professional.  This is especially important for diabetics, as they have special needs and concerns to consider. 

Some of the suggested exercise precautions for diabetics include:

  • In case of a severe drop in blood sugar levels during exercise, keep a carbohydrate handy. 
  • When you’re under a lot of physical or mental stress, avoid exercise.  This is because stress can cause irregular blood glucose levels.
  • If possible, don’t exercise alone!  Find a friend or family member who is willing to exercise with you, in case an emergency should arise.  If you must exercise alone, do it where there are people around who could help in case of an emergency situation.  Don’t forget to carry something that identifies you as a diabetic.      
  • Be sure to test your blood sugar level regularly!
  • Because diabetics are prone to circulation problems that could lead to foot injuries or infections, it is essential that you take good care of your feet.  Discuss with your health care professional how to prevent or treat any foot-related problems.

Exercise can be greatly beneficial for diabetics when performed cautiously and under the advice of a doctor.  Diabetes doesn’t have to prevent you from being physically active.

Written by Cyndi Waters
Fitness Researcher and Writer


Smooth Fitness | Treadmills & Ellipticals

© 2000-2014, Smooth Fitness™
Smooth Fitness is a Registered Trademark of Smooth Fitness, LLC.