Exercise is essential to managing diabetes.
Keeping your blood sugar levels monitored and maintained is essential to avoiding further complications related to Type 2 diabetes, from cardiovascular disease to diabetic foot ulcers. Eating right and checking your glucose levels regularly are both important, but another necessary factor that often goes neglected is exercise.
Brisk physical activity on a regular basis can help balance your blood sugar, reverse diabetes and, according to the journal Contemporary Reviews in Cardiovascular Medicine, reduce venous stasis that can lead to dysfunction in the feet. Even for people without diabetes, starting a workout routine can be daunting, but these tips may help with the transition:
1. Start slow
If you’re nervous about beginning a workout routine, ease yourself into the regimen slowly and steadily. You might, for instance, begin on the first day with some light stretching, then pushing your stretches a little further each day to enhance flexibility and get your blood flowing. Increase the briskness of your activities as time passes.
2. Try quick workouts
Rather than dedicating yourself to, say, a straight 30 minutes of exercise every day, break your exercise up into smaller parts. You might exercise for 10 minutes in the morning, 10 in the afternoon and then 10 in the early evening. As Dr. George Griffing, endocrinology professor at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine, told Health magazine, the most important thing is to get active.
“We need people with diabetes up and moving,” Griffing said. “If you can do your exercise in one 30 minute stretch, fine. But if not, break it up into increments you can manage that add up to at least 30 minutes each day.”
3. Build balance
Aerobics and weight loss are not the only factors of exercise. You can use your daily routine to help strengthen your core and build balance, which will in turn help you avoid trips and spills that can lead to injuries, such as broken bones and non-healing wounds. Among the many types of balance-strengthening activities are walking sideways and backwards, standing on one leg and doing squats (or partial squats). Practices such as yoga and tai chi also place great emphasis on balance.
4. Join a class
You might initially feel more comfortable exercising from the privacy of your own home, but try getting out and meeting new people with a shared interest in getting healthy. Join a swim class at your local community center, sign up for tai chi at a nearby studio or take a shot at an activity you’ve wanted to try your whole life. There are even yoga and other exercise classes dedicated specifically to people with diabetes, or you might invite some friends to join you in a daily jog around the park for something more low-key.
5. Make it fun
For many people, traditional workouts are monotonous – going to the gym and doing repetitions can be repetitive. Add excitement to your regimen by doing something new, whether it’s salsa dance lessons or learning synchronized swimming. You can also turn exercise into a friendly competition – challenge your friends to a game in which everyone wears a pedometer throughout the day. Compare the results each evening to see who exercised the most. Apps for logging and comparing steps per day are available online.
Note that some people may not be able to engage in certain activities. For instance swimming may not be advised for people with healing wounds. With that, it’s important to talk with your clinician to develop an exercise plan that’s right for you.
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