Diabetes & Fitness
What can a physically active lifestyle do for me?
Research has shown that physical activity can
- lower your blood glucose and your blood pressure
- lower your bad cholesterol and raise your good cholesterol
- improve your body's ability to use insulin
- lower your risk for heart disease and stroke
- keep your heart and bones strong
- keep your joints flexible
- lower your risk of falling
- help you lose weight
- reduce your body fat
- give you more energy
- reduce your stress levels
Physical activity also plays an important part in preventing type 2 diabetes. A major Government study, the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), showed that modest weight loss of 5 to 7 percent—for example, 10 to 15 pounds for a 200-pound person—can delay and possibly prevent type 2 diabetes. People in the study used diet and exercise to lose weight.
What kinds of physical activity can help me?
Four kinds of activity can help. You can
- be extra active every day
- do aerobic exercise
- do strength training
Be Extra Active Every Day
Being extra active can increase the number of calories you burn. Try these ways to be extra active, or think of other things you can do.
- Walk around while you talk on the phone.
- Play with the kids.
- Take the dog for a walk.
- Get up to change the TV channel instead of using the remote control.
- Work in the garden or rake leaves.
- Clean the house.
- Wash the car.
- Stretch out your chores. For example, make two trips to take the laundry downstairs instead of one.
- Park at the far end of the shopping center parking lot and walk to the store.
- At the grocery store, walk down every aisle.
- At work, walk over to see a co-worker instead of calling or emailing.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Stretch or walk around instead of taking a coffee break and eating.
- During your lunch break, walk to the post office or do other errands.
Do Aerobic Exercise
Aerobic exercise is activity that requires the use of large muscles and makes your heart beat faster. You will also breathe harder during aerobic exercise. Doing aerobic exercise for 30 minutes a day at least 5 days a week provides many benefits. You can even split up those 30 minutes into several parts. For example, you can take three brisk 10-minute walks, one after each meal. If you haven't exercised lately, see your doctor first to make sure it's OK for you to increase your level of physical activity. Talk with your doctor about how to warm up and stretch before you exercise and how to cool down after you exercise. Then start slowly with 5 to 10 minutes a day. Add a little more time each week, aiming for at least 150 minutes per week. Try
- walking briskly
- climbing stairs
- swimming or taking a water-aerobics class
- riding a bicycle outdoors or a stationary bicycle indoors
- taking an aerobics class
- playing basketball, volleyball, or other sports
- in-line skating, ice skating, or skate boarding
- playing tennis
- cross-country skiing
Do Strength Training & Stretch
Doing exercises with hand weights, elastic bands, or weight machines three times a week builds muscle. When you have more muscle and less fat, you’ll burn more calories because muscle burns more calories than fat, even between exercise sessions. Strength training can help make daily chores easier, improving your balance and coordination, as well as your bones’ health. You can do strength training at home, at a fitness center, or in a class. Your health care team can tell you more about strength training and what kind is best for you.
Stretching increases your flexibility, lowers stress, and helps prevent muscle soreness after other types of exercise. Your health care team can tell you what kind of stretching is best for you.
Can Physical Activity Cause Low Blood Glucose?
Physical activity can cause low blood glucose, also called hypoglycemia, in people who take insulin or certain types of diabetes medicines. Ask your health care team whether your diabetes medicines can cause low blood glucose. Low blood glucose can happen while you exercise, right afterward, or even up to a day later. It can make you feel shaky, weak, confused, grumpy, hungry, or tired. You may sweat a lot or get a headache. If your blood glucose drops too low, you could pass out or have a seizure. However, you should still be physically active. These steps can help you be prepared for low blood glucose:
Before ExerciseAsk your health care team whether you should check your blood glucose level before exercising. If you take diabetes medicines that can cause low blood glucose, ask your health care team whether you should
- change the amount you take before you exercise
- have a snack if your blood glucose level is below 100
- Wear your medical identification (ID) bracelet or necklace or carry your ID in your pocket.
- Always carry food or glucose tablets so you'll be ready to treat low blood glucose.
- If you’ll be exercising for more than an hour, check your blood glucose at regular intervals. You may need snacks before you finish.
- Check to see how exercise affected your blood glucose level.
To read more about this topic, from this and related documents, please see What I Need to Know About Physical Activity and Diabetes, from the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. You might also want to see the related HealthyNJ pages on: Diabetes, Diabetes and Nutrition, Diabetes and Pregnancy, Diabetic Eye Problems, Diabetic Foot Problems, Diabetic Kidney Problems, Diabetic Nerve Problems, Diabetic Retinopathy, Insulin Resistance, Metabolic Syndrome and Pre-Diabetes.