By Paula Cerqueira, Dietetic Intern
Exercise is an integral part of diabetes management. It helps improve blood glucose control in the long run; reduces insulin resistance; increases insulin sensitivity for up to 72 hours after an activity session; promotes modest weight loss and weight maintenance; lowers blood pressure, LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides; decreases risk of heart disease and stroke; and reduces stress, anxiety and depression.
In order to get the greatest benefits from your workouts, it’s recommended that you participate in 150 minutes per week of moderately intense physical activity, such as: walking at a brisk pace, jogging, swimming, bicycling, playing tennis or using an elliptical.
While exercise is an important part of any diabetes treatment plan, it needs to be started carefully. Check in with your healthcare provider before starting an exercise program. For those who take insulin or medication that stimulates insulin production, it’s critical to check your blood sugar levels before, after, and during your workout to avoid dangerous blood sugar fluctuations.
Prior to exercise, if your blood sugar is below 80 mg/dL, it may be too low to safely do moderate physical activity. Eat a small carbohydrate-containing snack, such as a medium piece of fruit or a slice of toast, before you begin your workout. If your blood sugar levels are greater than 250 mg/dL, you should test your urine for ketones (a byproduct of fat metabolism). Hormones associated with exercise can further raise blood ketones and cause a drop in your blood pH. Wait to exercise until urine ketones are at a low level. Contact your healthcare provider with any questions regarding exercise and/or your diabetes care plan.