Living with diabetes is a challenge. Altering your diet and taking the right medication will help in controlling the condition, what can really make a difference in managing it better is adopting an exercise plan. Unfortunately, only about 40 percent of people with type 2 diabetes indulge in regular physical activity according to a study published in the World Journal of Diabetes. That is unfortunate as even 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week can be really advantageous for people with diabetes according to the National Institutes of Health.
Exercise helps you lose weight and improve balance. Weight management is particularly important because people with obesity are at a higher risk of developing diabetes too. Moreover, regular exercise also lowers your blood sugar level and may even reduce your insulin requirements.
When you plan your exercise schedule, keep in mind that you should never go for more than two days without any activity. Following this routine properly can help keep diabetes under control and in some cases, even get over the disease. Before you go ahead with your schedule, however, it's best to consult your doctor to make sure there are no restrictions or special precautions you need to take based on your glucose or blood sugar levels.
Now, let’s take a look at some useful workouts that were proved to be effective for people fighting diabetes.
1. Brisk Walking
Walking is one of the most popular and easiest exercises that you can include in your daily routine. While it is beneficial to everyone, brisk walking is highly recommended for people dealing with diabetes. Studies have shown that walking regularly can help diabetics lower their blood sugar levels and lose weight.
The best thing about walking is that it’s free and easy. All you need is a good pair of shoes and somewhere to go. Moreover, you can choose the pace and how far you go. A brisk stroll of 30 minutes to an hour 3 or 4 times a week will help people with diabetes reach their recommended target of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise.
2. Tai Chi
Have you ever heard of Tai Chi? It’s an amazing ancient Chinese form of exercise that uses a series of gentle and smooth body movements to relax the mind and body. Tai chi is ideal for people with diabetes as it offers fitness and stress reduction through one form of exercise. Studies have shown that those who practice tai chi daily have seen a considerable improvement in blood sugar control. This gentle exercise can also help with mobility, balance, and flexibility, and can even help prevent nerve damage in your feet.
Tai chi’s ability to lower your stress levels and encourage mental relaxation is seen as its most vital benefit for diabetics as excessive stress can come in the way of controlling the disease. You can learn more about the benefits of tai chi and how to practice it in our previous article on this anti-aging workout.
Yoga has got plenty of attention in the last decade for all the right reasons. People have realized the countless benefits that this ancient practice offers for both the body and the mind. In fact, even doing about 30 minutes of yoga a day can help you fight against anxiety and depression while making you feel more centered. This wonderful practice is also beneficial for people with chronic conditions like diabetes as it can help lower stress and improve nerve function which ultimately results in an overall improvement in mental health and wellness. Remember, that when your stress levels increase, so do your blood sugar levels. Hence, yoga would be really helpful in keeping that under control.
Furthermore, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), yoga may keep your blood glucose levels stable as practicing it daily can lead to improved muscle mass.
4. Weight Training
Weightlifting and other strengthening activities are important for people with diabetes as they help build muscle mass. If you end up losing muscle mass, you’ll have a much harder time maintaining your blood sugar. Moreover, trained muscles have an increased capacity to store blood glucose in the form of glycogen, thus helping in lowering blood glucose. This basically results in lowered blood sugar levels and better glucose management.
You can use weight machines or free weights to incorporate weightlifting into your weekly exercise routine. However, learning how to lift weights safely is essential. It would be better if you take a couple of classes at first, or take the guidance of a professional trainer.
Swimming is another great low-impact exercise that’s perfect for diabetics, particularly for people with type 2 diabetes. This is because it stretches and relaxes your muscles and doesn’t strain your joints. This can be really helpful as diabetes can cause joint pain in various ways. Studies have also shown that swimming can be great for those with diabetes or at risk for developing diabetes as it can improve cholesterol levels, burn calories, and lower stress levels. Swimming also helps lower glucose levels while strengthening your heart, muscles, and lungs too.
Type 2 diabetes can often lead to foot complications such as neuropathy, or nerve damage. According to NYU Langone Health, swimming will be beneficial for anyone with diabetes who’s managing neuropathy because of its gentle nature. To get the most benefit from swimming, try and swim at least three times a week for at least ten minutes.
6. Stationary Bicycling
One great and effective way to burn calories, make your heart stronger, and your lungs function better, is to start bicycling. According to a study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, spending just a few times per week on a bicycle can reduce the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, and triglyceride levels. For people with diabetes, this form of exercise will be extra helpful as it can keep their heart rate up, burn blood sugar, and help them lose weight without hurting their knees or other joints.
If you are not comfortable going out with a bicycle currently due to the pandemic, you can opt for a stationary bike which will be just as useful. Moreover, you can use it inside at any time of the day, regardless of the weather. Spending 30 minutes a day 3 to 5 times a week on the bicycle should be ideal.
7. Climbing Stairs
In case you skip your swimming, weight training, or bicycling routine, climbing stairs is a very easy and healthy alternative to burn calories and get your heart and lungs working faster.
For people with diabetes, going up and down the stairs for 3 minutes, a couple of hours after a meal will be helpful in burning off blood sugar. Did you know that you burn about 0.17 calories for every step you climb? The activity also reduces cholesterol levels and improves stamina and energy. It’s also a convenient workout as stairs are generally readily available everywhere and you can climb them whenever you take a little break in your daily routine.
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