Tuesday, January 23, 2018
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Exercise Helps Prevent and Control Diabetes

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by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner

There are 86 million Americans who have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Exercise can help lower risk and manage symptoms in type 1 and type 2. What follows is more fuel for your fitness journey …

How Workouts Work

Strength training complements aerobic workouts in diabetes fitness plans.
Strength training complements aerobic workouts in diabetes fitness plans.

Strength training and cardio workouts improve the body’s use of insulin and lower blood sugar levels. This positive effect can last up to 48 hours post-workout. Exercise also improves circulation, including in the extremities. This encourages healing, especially in diabetic individuals who are known to suffer from peripheral neuropathy.

Being obese or overweight increases your risk for diabetes. Regular exercise helps achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, while having a positive impact on insulin sensitivity. A well-balanced fitness program– which includes strength, cardio, and flexibility training– also helps avoid complications from diabetes.

Heart Disease and Diabetes

Heart disease is one of the most common complications for people with diabetes.  It almost always is established prior to a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes as arteries harden and cholesterol builds up. Heart disease and stroke are responsible for 65 percent of deaths in those with diabetes, who are twice as at risk for these health conditions.

Pilates targets your core to help reduce abdominal fat.
Pilates targets your core to help reduce abdominal fat.

One study showed individuals with diabetes, regardless of other heart-disease risk factors, were as likely to have a heart attack as someone without diabetes who already had a heart attack. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in those with type 2 diabetes.

Along with directly strengthening the heart, exercise helps reduce risk factors for cardiac disease like bad cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high triglycerides. Abdominal fat is especially dangerous for heart heath. A workout that focuses on decreasing your waistline can have a protective effect on your heart, the health of which is already compromised by diabetes.

Diabetes- Appropriate Fitness

Although your symptoms may be well controlled, speak with your physician about any special exercise requirements. Those with diabetes usually are cleared for any type of fitness program they enjoy, as long as executed properly.

A Center nurse can help assure a safe workout.
A Center nurse can help assure a safe workout.

Share your physician’s advice with a Center nurse and a personal trainer. Your records can be updated and health more closely monitored, if necessary. Surrounded by knowledgeable fitness and health experts, you can accomplish an effective workout that remains in safe parameters.

And that peace-of-mind is also important in helping prevent diabetes. Researchers found men with the highest stress levels were 2.2 times more likely to develop diabetes than those with the lowest levels. (Decreased stress also helps heart health. One benefit leads to another.)

Workout Tips for Those with Diabetes

  • Know your medication: Certain medications can have side-effects during increased physical activity. Blood sugar can drop too much, causing lightheadedness, dizziness, and (in extreme cases) seizures. Ask your physician if an adjustment to medication or insulin is needed on workout days.
  • Monitor blood sugar: Test your blood sugar prior to a workout. A small pre-workout snack is recommended if blood sugar is too low. Keep juice or glucose tablets with you for a boost, if needed.
  • Feet first: Make your feet a priority. Check them often for blisters or sores. Diabetes makes one prone to foot health issues. Use moisture-wicking socks. Be sure sneakers, and all shoes, fit properly and provide appropriate support. If any problems present, alert your physician.
  • Stay hydrated. You don’t want to confuse symptoms of dehydration with unhealthy blood sugar levels.

The American Diabetes Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise a week. Aim to strength train, with weights or otherwise, for 20-30 minutes three times a week. Always wear your medical ID tag to alert others in case of emergency.

Diabetes Wellness Program

Many of the Center’s fitness professionals are skilled in helping members with special needs or health concerns. The Center offers a Diabetes Wellness Program specially focused on helping those with diabetes accomplish their healthiest life through safe, appropriate fitness routines. For more information, please contact Jay Groves at jayg@fitnessandwellness.org.


American Diabetes Association at diabetes.org

“Don’t Stress Diabetes,” edited by Erin Hicks at menshealth.com

“Heart Disease and Diabetes,” at webmd.com

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