There is a common misconception that diabetes patients should not do exercise. This probably stems from the common practice of letting people suffering from an illness rest as opposed to having them stay active. This is a diabetes myth. Exercise is an important part of a diabetic’s treatment plan and can spell the difference between treating diabetes through medication or by making lifestyle changes.
Physical activity yields a lot of benefits for the diabetic patient. For one, it regulates the blood glucose levels by encouraging energy use and makes the cells more sensitive to insulin. Exercise also lowers bad cholesterol in the blood while it increases good cholesterol. It also lowers blood pressure, lowering risks of diabetes complications such as heart disease, kidney disease and stroke.
Additionally, physical activity for diabetes also helps a diabetic reduce fatty tissues in the body, which can likewise reduce the risk of diabetic complications. Exercise has also been proven to lower stress levels, thereby lowering blood sugar levels as an effect. Stress is known to cause spikes in blood sugar levels.
There are generally two types of exercise that can benefit a diabetic: aerobic exercise and strength training. The two are different in the way that they condition the body: aerobic exercise works on large muscle groups and makes the heart beat faster. Examples of aerobic exercise are running, biking, hiking, dancing or sports like tennis, badminton, basketball etc. Meanwhile, strength exercise works on more specific body muscle groups. This can include push-ups, squats, yoga poses, or hand weights. The advantage to the diabetic is that this allows them to lose excess fats in specific areas, improved circulation, and improved balance and coordination.
Physical activity can be done by the diabetic any time of the day. There does not have to be a specific time taken aside to do it, exercise can be incorporated in the daily activities. For instance, if a diabetic is still working in an office, a light physical activity can mean walking to lunch instead of taking a cab, or perhaps taking the stairs instead of the elevator. The exercise can also be done around the home, such as in doing yard work, or walking the dog. Even grocery shopping can be considered exercise.
In many cases, normal exercise routines are ok for diabetics. However there will be cases such as in those suffering from neuropathies when the diabetic will need to take extra precautions in their physical activities. People suffering from diabetic retinopathies (eye nerve damage) will be advised to avoid lifting weights which can make the condition more serious. People suffering from peripheral neuropathies i.e. foot problems will be advised to take on activities that will put less stress on the feet such as swimming or light walking instead of jogging.
Since many diabetics have different conditions, it is best to consult with the doctor before engaging in an exercise regimen. Blood glucose should also be regularly monitored before and after exercise, and in many cases patients are advised to take snacks to replenish before, during and after exercise. Snacks and glucose tablets should also be carried always in case they suffer from low blood sugar from too much physical activity. It is also essential to wear a medical bracelet ID or any sort of ID specifying the diabetic’s condition in case of any emergency.