Being active is one of the best ways to lower your glucose levels
Regular exercise is the most important lifestyle decision we can make – everyone benefits. For people with diabetes it is especially important. It’s a low-cost, low-risk way to fight vascular disease, regulate blood sugars, reduce the risk of high blood pressure and boost your well-being.
Exercise helps to keep your cholesterol levels in check and your bowels in top shape, and you may even lose a few pounds in the process. Our increasingly sedentary lifestyles – driving to work, to school, to the grocery store, spending more time at the computer and watching TV – have made it even more important to include daily physical activity in our lives.
If you are currently active, congratulations! You are taking the right steps to minimize the impact of diabetes on your quality of life. If you are not that active, these tips will help and encourage you to get started.
Do I need a stress test?
Having a stress test before
starting may be another necessary step if you have symptoms suggestive of heart disease, such as shortness of breath or chest discomfort, or if you have been previously sedentary, at high risk for cardiovascular disease, and now wish to undertake a vigorous exercise program.
Information from this test will be helpful in assessing your heart health and establishing a safe training heart rate.
Learn how your blood sugars respond to exercise
This is very important. By taking your blood glucose reading immediately before and after exercising, you will know whether it is safe to begin exercise for that day, and how many points your reading drops during and after exercise.
Before exercise, check your blood glucose level. If it is 5.5 mmol/L or less, eat 15-30 grams of a fast-acting sugar, such as a dextrose tablet or a hard candy (not sugar free), and re-check your blood sugar reading in 15 minutes. After exercise, if your reading is less than 5 mmol/L, eat a light snack, especially if you must drive. Remember “5 to Drive”.
Another reading to note is before breakfast: 16.7 mmol/L or higher is too high to begin exercise. While a slow walk may help burn extra sugars, moderate to vigorous exercise may cause problems, so postpone exercise until your sugars are back under control.
Ensure proper hydration and monitor for signs and symptoms of hyperglycemia (e.g. increased thirst, nausea, severe fatigue, blurred vision or headache), especially if exercising in the heat.
How do I get started?
Take time to think about what activities you enjoy. If you don’t like riding stationary bicycles, then don’t. Find what you do like. The only consideration is to keep impact exercises to a minimum if you have any foot complications, such as neuropathy.
Look for opportunities to increase your activity throughout the day. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as brisk walking, dancing or biking per week. Spread it out over at least three non-consecutive days of the week with no more than two consecutive days in between.
Set a realistic goal. Start with just 10 minutes of an activity like walking four days a week. As you become fit you can increase to 30 minutes for five days a week. (Check out our sample walking program on the next page).
Enrol in a group exercise class. It‘s a good way of not only getting your body in shape but also getting out and meeting people.
Add some resistance training. Research has shown that moving a weight with your muscles, known commonly as resistance training, is beneficial when you have diabetes.
How hard should I be working?
A very simple yet effective way to tell if you’re overdoing it is the Talk Test. If during exercise you are breathing so heavily that you can’t talk you are pushing your body too much.
Another common way of measuring how hard you are working is to use your heart rate as an indicator. Everyone has a different maximum heart rate but a good overall average has been calculated at 220 beats per minute.
● Physical activity can affect your blood glucose for up to 12 hours. When getting started, check your blood glucose just before and right after your activity, as well as several hours after your activity stops. It is a great way to see the benefit of