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5 Ways Exercise Can Help You Tame Diabetes

Posted 3/14/2017 by UHBlog

Do you know how exercise can keep your diabetes under control? Talk to us.

5 Ways Exercise Can Help You Tame Diabetes

Looking for a proven way to delay the onset of diabetes or slow down its progression? Try lacing up your sneakers, rolling out your yoga mat and/or slipping into your bathing suit and get moving.

“Exercise is a key component to keeping blood glucose (blood sugar) levels in the correct range, encouraging weight loss and reducing cardiovascular risks,” says family medicine specialist Nishanthini Sooriyapalan, MD, who goes by Dr. Nish. “Just check with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine, especially if you have co-morbidities, such as heart failure.”

According to Dr. Nish, diabetes is one of the most common diseases in America, affecting nearly 30 million Americans. A metabolic disease, it occurs when blood sugar levels are higher than normal. The chronic disease is the seventh-leading cause of death in the U.S.

Dr. Nish answers questions about the ways exercise controls diabetes and how to safely begin an exercise routine:

  1. How does exercise help control my blood sugar levels?

    A. “People with type 2 diabetes have too much blood sugar in their blood because their body doesn't produce enough insulin to process it, or because their body doesn't use insulin properly,” she says. “When a muscle is exercised, it draws glucose out of the bloodstream for fuel, helping control levels of sugar in the blood. This effect continues not just during exercise, but for 24 to 72 hours afterward.”

  2. Will exercise help me with other diabetes-related issues?

    A. Dr. Nish says that by staying fit and active you can also:

    • Reduce your risk for stroke and heart disease
    • Lower your blood pressure and blood glucose
    • Help your body use insulin
    • Raise your good cholesterol and lower your bad cholesterol
  3. What are some recommended exercises?

    A. “You should aim for 30 minutes of aerobic exercise – like walking, hiking, stair climbing, dancing, swimming, tennis, bicycling or outdoor hiking – at least five days a week, or a total of 150 minutes a week,” says Dr. Nish. “And weight-training exercises should be done two or three days a week. You should include working with hand weights, elastic bands and weight machines.”

    She also recommends incorporating Tai Chi or yoga into an exercise program.

  4. Can I just go from being a couch potato to a jock?

    A. “To prevent complications, any new or rigorous exercise program should be approved by your doctor, who may refer you to a physical therapist, diabetes educator or personal trainer,” she says. “You might have to start out exercising 10 minutes a day until you can build up your stamina and strength.”

    She also advises people with diabetes to check their blood sugar levels before, during and after an activity to prevent low or falling blood sugar levels.

    “And it's also prudent to have a piece of candy or fruit nearby while you exercise,” she says.

  5. Can I do exercises while at my desk job?

    A. Even while you're at work you can improve your blood sugar levels by moving every 30 minutes. She suggests doing activities, such as:

    • Leg lifts or extensions
    • Overhead arm stretches
    • Desk chair swivels
    • Torso twists
    • Side lunges
    • Walking in place

“No matter how simple the moves, whether sitting down or standing up, exercise is an effective way to improve the body's ability to use insulin and help control blood sugar levels,” Dr. Nish says.

Nishanthini Sooriyapalan, MD is a family medicine specialist at University Hospitals Geneva Family Medicine. You can request an appointment with Dr. Sooriyapalan or any other doctor online.

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