Exercise: Doctors, educators, even TV commercials tell us it's a key part of diabetes self-care. But many people living with diabetes (PWDs) seem to think more about exercising rather than actually doing it -- and feel guilty in the process.
"Exercise doesn't get nearly the focus or attention it deserves," says Gary Scheiner, CDE, author of Think Like a Pancreas (Da Capo Press, 2004) and an exercise physiologist in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. He says the effects of exercise can, in some cases, be as powerful as medications.
Getting daily physical activity is the secret weapon in your battle against diabetes and its complications. That became clear to Sunny Harris, PWD type 2. Sunny's average blood sugars had hit 150 mg/dl. He began watching his food portions. In three months, his glucose levels dropped about 10 points.
But when Sunny, 67, started exercising, his blood sugars took a dive. After 12 weeks of strength training and walking on a treadmill five days a week, his average blood glucose hovered about 100 mg/dl. "All my numbers were lower -- my blood pressure, my cholesterol," Sunny says.
Types of Exercise
Ideally, PWDs need a mix of aerobic, strength, and flexibility exercises.
- Aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking or biking, lowers blood sugar by using up excess glucose circulating in the blood.
- Strength training builds muscles, which give your body places to store excess carbohydrate so it doesn't convert to fat. Strength training also uses up fuel already stored in your muscles.
- Flexibility training, such as yoga, helps maintain range of motion around the joints, making balance and everyday activities easier and more comfortable.