You don't have to find hours each day to work out in a gym to enjoy
the huge benefits of exercise. Dance, walk, swim, garden, play ball, have fun.
Gradually work up to at least 30 minutes, 5 days each week. Even that little
amount of exercise can catapult your health forward -- even if the exercise
is divided into shorter blocks (15 minutes twice a day can be great).
Exercise has great health benefits. You probably know that exercise burns
calories, which helps you lose weight. You may also know that exercise improves
your cholesterol level and lowers your blood pressure. Together, this helps
maintain the health of your heart and blood vessels.
Exercise also makes your muscle cells more sensitive to insulin, meaning that
sugar from your blood is able to enter muscle cells. If you have type 2 diabetes,
this accomplishes two important goals:
- Helps to control your blood sugar levels
- Provides the energy your muscles need to work throughout the day
You may find that with a healthy diet and sufficient exercise, you can keep
your blood sugar in the normal non-diabetic range without medication.
To ideally improve blood sugar control, achieve a healthy weight, and reduce
the risks of heart disease and strokes, you need at least 150 minutes per week
of moderate-to-intense aerobic activity (with your heart rate at 50 - 85% of
maximum) OR at least 90 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic exercise (with
your heart rate at less than 85% of maximum).
In addition, you should add resistance training to your routine, unless there
is a medical reason to avoid it. The ideal is 3 times a week, targeting all
major muscle groups, trying to work up to 3 sets of 8 - 10 repetitions each,
using a weight that cannot be lifted more than 8 - 10 times
If exercise is new for you or you've been inactive for a while, check with
your doctor to be sure that it is safe for you to start. A stress test, eye
exam, and complete neurologic exam may be performed to assess your risk for
complications related to diabetes. Once you are given the go-ahead, follow
these general guidelines:
- Choose activities that you enjoy, so that you will stick with them. Vary
the activity when it feels like time for something new.
- Include 5 minute warm-up and cool-down periods.
- Start slowly and listen to your body.
- Be aware that exercise can cause your blood sugar to plummet if you are
taking certain medications or insulin.
- Check your blood sugar before and after exercise to learn how exercise
affects your body.
- As a general rule, you should not exercise if your blood sugar is over
300 or below 100 mg/dl.
- Wear proper footwear.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Wear a visible I.D. bracelet or other diabetes identifier.
- Have sugar-containing foods readily available during and after exercise
in case your blood sugar drops.
- Avoid injecting insulin (if you use it) near muscles that you use while
- Avoid strength training and high-impact exercises if you have a diabetic
eye disorder called retinopathy.
- Ask your doctor about any other exercise restrictions that are specific
The effects of exercise on blood sugar levels can last up to 24 hours. By
recording exercise information in your blood sugar log (including types of
activities, time of day, and length of workout), you can see patterns that
develop and learn to be safe.
Review Date: 5/1/2006
Reviewed By: Alan Greene, M.D., F.A.A.P., Department of Pediatrics, Packard Children's Hospital, Stanford University School of Medicine; Chief Medical Officer, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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