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Exercise Plays Important Role in Diabetes Care

Posted by Johnson Memorial Health on Apr 1, 2017

Managing your diabetes requires commitment, especially in three important areas - Diet, Medicine and Exercise.

An effective diabetes care program should include eating healthy foods and taking your prescriptions (such as insulin) as directed.  Getting an appropriate amount of exercise also plays a critical role.

The American Diabetes Association says that exercise lowers blood glucose:  "When your muscles contract during activity, it stimulates another mechanism that is completely separate of insulin. This mechanism allows your cells to take up glucose and use it for energy whether insulin is available or not."

The effect physical activity has on your blood glucose will vary depending on how long you are active, according to the ADA. That's why planning your workout routine with your doctor or nurse case manager is important.

Here are just a few tips that should be included in the exercise plan:

Check your blood sugar levels before you begin

If your level is low, eat 15 grams of carbohydrate and test again after 15 minutes. If still low, eat an additional 15 grams of carbs.  Once your blood sugar is normal for 20-30 minutes, you may proceed with your exercise. Also, if you plan to exercise for more than an hour (such as a long hike), you should stop and check your sugar levels at regular intervals.

Carry a carbohydrate source

Diabetics often can tell when their blood sugar levels are dropping. A blood sugar check likely will confirm it. That's why it is best to have 15-20 grams of fast-acting carbohydrate and a protein snack available, especially if you are away from home or in an isolated area such as a walking trail.

Carry a monitor and an extra insulin dose

A good workout, in some diabetics, actually increases blood sugar levels. That's why measuring blood sugar levels during long periods of exercise can help you determine whether to add carbohydrates to your system or give yourself a shot (if you are insulin-dependent).

 Workout with a friend

An exercise partner helps in so many ways. First, a family member or friend can motivate you to get off the couch and take a long walk. Second, a partner who knows you are diabetic can provide assistance if you experience a hypoglycemic episode.

Wear appropriate shoes

Diabetics are prone to foot issues due to decreased blood flow to their extremities. If you plan to walk or run, you should purchase well-fitting running or fitness shoes (instead of tennis or casual shoes). You also should take precautions to avoid blisters, which can become infected. Proper athletic socks and foot creams help.

Drink plenty of water

After exercising, your body needs to expel lactic acid that builds up in your system. Water does the trick. Avoid sports drinks - which typically are loaded with carbohydrates and sugars. And definitely stay away from soft drinks containing caffeine and sugar.

Most importantly, have a plan. Make certain you have fully discussed it with your doctor. And then take it slowly at first.

Work your way into a good routine that strengthens your body and your aerobic system. You will feel so much better about your body.

Topics: Diabetes