A central part of staying healthy is also one of the best therapies for diabetes. What is it, you may ask? Physical Activity! The benefits of exercise are many — from weight loss to improving stress and anxiousness, to lowering blood glucose.
Exercise makes our bodies more responsive to insulin and allows insulin to be more effective in carrying sugar out of the blood where it can cause damage to our systems. Structured exercise programs have been associated with decreases in A1c by as much as 0.66% in people with Type 2 Diabetes — even without large weight losses. But even more leisurely activities, such as yoga or tai chi, have impact on glucose control when done regularly.1
The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with diabetes perform aerobic and resistance exercise regularly with the guidance to aim for 30 minutes most days of the week while avoiding more than 2 days in a row with no activity at all.1 In addition, they recommend 2–3 sessions per week of resistance exercise on nonconsecutive days.1
Cold temperatures and shorter days can make meeting our physical activity goals feel less attainable. Outdoor sport activities and adult leagues are fewer, and winter blues can weaken our motivation to get up and get moving. Do not be discouraged. SPRING is here! Our days are warming and lengthening, and there are many opportunities to get active outdoors again.
However, if being outdoors is not for you, gyms and fitness centers offer group classes for a variety of fitness levels. Silver Sneakers is a great program aimed at older adults. Your employer may also offer wellness programs that have discounted gym memberships, on-campus classes, and incentives for getting active.
If a formal gym membership is out of the budget, many options are available for no charge. Some churches and community groups offer free or discounted group fitness classes. Consider looking into fitness apps for your smart phone that can lead you through a variety of customizable routines, or smart watches that can track activity. Some smart watches, such as the Amazfit brand, can be more reasonably attained for ~$40-50 while still tracking steps, heart rate, active minutes and even sleep quality.
Whatever your exercise plan, find something you like, and be sure to warm up to it first! Start small and slowly build up to your goals. To ensure safety, it is important to set stepwise goals as you reach these activity recommendations and review your exercise plan with your medical provider before beginning to confirm the chosen activity can be done safely. For example, if walking is your goal but 30-minute sessions are not doable, try three 10-minute sessions or two 15-minute sessions. It does not all have to done at once! All movement counts, and small changes make for big results!
Regardless of your exercise plan or ability, remember that any increase in activity is a win! Using energy to move, get your heart rate going and to limit prolonged periods of inactivity can still be impactful to improve glucose control and attain better health.
Take a walk after lunch or dinner, wear a pedometer, take the stairs, park far away, stand when on the phone, clean or do dishes, walk in place while watching TV, or dance while the music is playing! It all adds up to increased metabolism, decreased blood glucose, and will spring you forward to a better you!
- American Diabetes Association Professional Practice Committee. 5. Facilitating behavior change and well-being to improve health outcomes: Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes—2022. Diabetes Care 2022;45 (Suppl. 1):S60–S82