Exercise with Diabetes: Can You Cure or Improve Your Condition by Keeping Fit?
John Hall, a man in his late 60s, had such severe type 2 diabetes that his doctors had told him he could have a heart attack or stroke at any time. For many years, he tried to change his diet and even walked five miles a day, but still found that his cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure levels were dangerously high.
Short, Sharp Bursts of Exercise
In desperation, Hall joined a fitness class at his local community centre. Each class is only 12 minutes long, but features high intensity cardio activity. In four months, Hall reported that his glucose and cholesterol levels had halved. He comments: ‘When I went back to the doctors two weeks ago, they were absolutely astounded. They said “what on earth have you been doing?” I don’t consider myself to be a diabetic anymore. I feel free to enjoy my life.’
Although John Hall’s case may or may not be an anomaly, one thing the experts do agree on is that it’s important to keep fit if you’ve got diabetes. Here’s a brief explanation.
The Importance of Keeping Fit with Diabetes
Exercise has enormous benefits for people with diabetes. It helps to control levels of sugar in the blood and also reduces the risk of heart-related health problems. When the muscles in the body are working harder, they use more glucose than when at rest; which means more sugar is used up, rather than remaining in the blood.
Of course, staying fit also offers other significant benefits. You’re likely to lose weight if you aim to exercise regularly, and it can also help manage stress levels. Diabetes.co.uk also suggests that regular physical exercise can help protect against conditions such as stroke and cancer. It cuts your risk of developing major chronic illnesses by 50% and reduces risk of premature death by as much as 30%.
How to Start Exercising
Before embarking on any exercise programme, it’s important to speak with your GP first. Likewise, if you feel faint, ill or experience chest pain when working out, stop immediately and let your doctor know.
If you’re normally fairly sedentary, try to exercise gently to begin with, then work yourself up to more vigorous activity at a pace that suits you. Walking is an excellent activity to ease yourself into exercising, and initially you should aim for 5 to 10 minutes a day.
Over time, as your fitness levels increase, you can start working on walking faster, and for longer. Once you feel ready, you can engage in more high impact activities, such as swimming, jogging and sports.
Precautions to Take
Check your blood sugar both before and after your exercise. Remember that working out can cause your blood sugar levels to drop, up to twelve hours after you’ve finished exercising. If you’ve been prescribed insulin, talk to your GP about when you should eat before working out, and also, whether or not you should adjust your dose.
It’s also advisable to keep some food nearby, should you need to boost your blood sugar levels quickly. Glucose tablets, fruit juice, a tablespoon of honey or a handful of boiled sweets are all suitable for this. If you find that keeping fit makes your blood levels drop on a regular basis, discuss things with your doctor before continuing.