Exercise For Diabetics — How You Can Beat Diabetes With Workouts

If you are among those dimwits who are certain that their on-screen superheroes are immune to any off-screen affliction, then this foreplay will delightfully do for a fantasy exterminator.

Tom Hanks, the legendary Forrest Gump, might have left many walkers behind but failed to outran diabetes. Halle Berry, also known as Storm from X-men, slipped into a weeklong comma after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

Paul Sorvino, who defended the weak and innocents as Phil Cerreta in Law and Order, couldn’t defend himself against type 2 diabetes in real-life. The long list of glamorous victims of the malicious diabetes goes on to clench many famous names like Randy Jackson, Dick Clark, tennis player Billie Jean King, previous presidential hopeful

Mike Huckabee, Major League Baseball player David “Boomer” Wells, and even Larry King. It starts to sound as if diabetes is in-fact that most talked about paparazzi which will never leave these celebrities alone.

But on the brighter or a rather bleak side, these celebrities are not alone when it comes to diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), nearly 29.1 million Americans which make up nearly 9% of the total population, currently suffer from diabetes. Moreover, nearly 1.4 million new cases emerge each year. 

Easy On The Chop-Chop: Know Diabetes Before You Exercise

Diabetes mellitus is a perennial condition; unlike the victim it persistently runs inside his body. In diabetes, the blood sugar level of a person often remains too high as a result of insulin-a hormone-dysfunction.  

Insulin is a peptide-based chemical produced by the beta cell of pancreas which helps in the uptake of sugar by cells thus keeping the blood sugar level low. When it is absent, the desperate sugar fails to penetrate into cells. Hopeless and vengeful, it remains in the blood and inflicts many health complications. Collectively, these health complications are known as diabetes.

Managing diabetes can be a constant struggle for you. Diabetes doesn’t like to discriminate, It will never stop you at a check-point to see, whether its type 1 diabetes where your body is not producing enough insulin, or its type 2 diabetes where the body is either not making insulin or properly utilizing it, you will have a tough time without any prejudice.

Type 2 diabetes is associated with insulin resistance and when this resistance develops fat, muscle, and liver cells do not respond well to insulin and cannot absorb sugar from blood. Therefore the body needs more insulin to help these tissues soak that uncherished sugar.

To manage diabetes life style modification, hypoglycemic drugs, exercise and diet is required according to your blood glucose and type of your disease.

Diabetes can cause many health problems and knock at all of your body organs especially blood vessels, heart, nerves, kidneys, mouth, eyes, and feet and once these organs are affected, the disease can display adverse health outcomes like heart disease, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and poor blood circulation through your body.

Targeted body organ damage like pain, numbness in limbs, bladder problems, digestion problems, protein loss through urine, fluid buildup, gum disease, loss of vision and blindness present themselves as a supplementary treats during Diabetes. Problems with limbs like feet sores and infections can sometimes lead to amputations and thus the patient has nowhere to go.

The typical expert advice to deal with diabetes is to lower your sugar intake, take proper insulin or oral hypoglycemics if needed, quit smoking even if not needed, incorporate physical activity in your life and take hypoglycemic medications or drugs like metformin to lower your blood sugar level.

We all know drugs come at price. No matter the benefits, if other avenues of help are available and drugs are not essentially needed in your recovery, exploring other roads is a good option.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), exercise is important in diabetes. When you are physically active, the cells in your body become more sensitive to insulin and become more effective at collecting glucose from the blood.

Consistent exercise can alleviate blood glucose and improve your A1C and when glycated hemoglobin is lowered, it can help you reduce the number of diabetes pills or insulin injections that are turning your skin into an old soft-board.

Exercise For Diabetics: 4 Preparation Steps Before You Hit The Gym:

Before beginning to work out or adopt any exercise regimen it is better to prepare yourself by using the following measures:

  1. Talk To Your Health Advisors

Your health advisor can be anyone who knows about health like a doctor, nurse, dietician, nutrition specialist, diabetes educator, or a healthcare professional with vast knowledge and experience in the field of diabetes. It is always a good idea to begin with a consultation as your advisor can guide you on a target range for your blood sugar levels.

People with insulin prescription and on a strict diet can face incidents of low blood sugar level, also commonly known as hypoglycemia. If a person’s blood sugar level drops below a certain limit, he or she can pass out, experience a seizure, and may even slip into a coma like Halle Berry, not a good example to follow nonetheless.

A person starting a new exercise may be unaware of how much burnout the exercise can potentially cause, thereby leading to lowered blood sugar levels. Planning ahead and discussing it with a health advisor can lower such risks.

Exercising alone would not help you reduce weight if that is needed in your condition. Diet plays an important role to avoid diabetic problems in such a condition. Studies have previously shown that people who manage both diet and their physical activity in sync with each other, are less likely to need medicines for heart and diabetes.

Your health care advisor can manage your drugs just like Pablo Escobar, but unlike the polarizing drug-lord, he will advise you on what to eat and what not eat while you begin your new workout program.

You can also get advice on whether some exercise suits you or not. For example, if you have osteoporosis (weak bones) your doctor may advise you to avoid lifting weights or any other exercise that can be harmful for your bones.

Diabetic patients face the problem of hypoglycemia during the workout, so load yourself with the preemptive steps and precautions from your physician.

  1. Plan Your Routine: Organize Yourself

Exercise can be fun one day but may be daunting on the next. Sticking to perseverance is the only way it would help you achieve your health goals especially if you have diabetes. Decide in advance what type of exercise you want to do. Research and decide ahead on:

  • The days on which you will exercise
  • The time of the day when you will exercise
  • The warm up routine, stretches, and cooling down routines you will use
  • A backup plan just in case you cannot do your planned exercise
  • A tracking system for your progress

An important aspect here is to check if you have reasonable or SMART goals set for your progress. Confirm that the goal you have set for yourself is:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

All of this will help you to be more effective in achieving your goal. For example, being specific can mean, “I have to lose weight”. A measurable goal can mean, “I have to lose ten pounds”.

Achievable and realistic goals can mean setting a target that is achievable given your resources, for example aiming for a size zero would neither be achievable nor realistic. A time-bound goal, on the other hand, can motivate you and help achieve different markers to track your progress over time.

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  1. Decide On A System For Tracking Progress

This is probably the most important of all the steps you will take to help improve your blood sugar levels. Before beginning your workout, make a plan on how will you monitor your progress over time.

Here’s some practical advice:

Write down your blood sugar levels for each day so that over time you know where you started improving or where you hit a barricade.

Monitor your blood sugar levels after you try some new kind of physical activity or when you increase or decrease your workout intensity. This will help you modify your exercise routine if needed and help your health advisor to keep an eye on your progress too.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases’ diabetes progress-monitoring tools are also available online for this purpose. Other several online tools like official diet apps (no we won’t plug any tool) can also help you track your progress.

Kidding, we don’t want you to go through the grind of finding your virtual messiah; we will do it for you. Diabetes Pilot Pro, Diabetes Tracker, and Weight Loss Coach by Fooducate are some examples of such phone apps that can track your weight loss, exercise routines, and your blood sugar level. These apps are even available for children with diabetes, so that they can learn about carbohydrates and how to count calories to lose weight, like Carb Counting with Lenny.

  1. Find A Workout Partner

Working out with the help of others can help you achieve your weight loss goals a lot quicker. Community based exercises or an exercise with a partner, has the least chances that you ever will, leave your exercise. When cramps start to build in and body starts to get tired, it is the motivation from your partner or the peers, that keeps you going. Do not miss on the power of the exercise partner.

Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who was diagnosed type 2 diabetes and previously weighed 280 pounds, championed this strategy. Calling his issue a result of eating too much and exercising too little, he describes his new self as “Forrest Gump without braces”. The governor now weighs 170 pounds.

He shed 40 pounds when he first started out and subsequently 70 more the next year with the help of careful monitoring, meal planning, and exercise. The governor tells that he ran 3-5 miles every day in a week while running longer on Sundays. He also added more than half an hour of a stationary bike to his exercise routine and practiced a full body weight lifting routine once in every week.

The governor advises taking the help of a friend so that you can remain consistent in your exercise routine. “It’ll help motivate you to wake up if you know someone is waiting to work out with you”, says Mike Huckabee.

When it comes to how to choose your partner it is better to choose a person whose company you enjoy, that is eager to join you in your journey of weight loss and most importantly help you stick to your exercise routine.

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A family weight loss or a couple weight loss pact can also help. You can have a reliable support system, your relationship becomes stronger and a priority, a little competition can increase excitement, you can forge lifelong healthy habits, and your family can also benefit in terms of health and risk reduction for developing diabetes.

Jen Aiello, 34, and Joe Wilson, 40, were engaged and collectively lost 175 pounds with each other’s help. Ms. Aiello explains that companionship helped her in weight loss — when one of them did not want to work out, the other pushed and reminded the other person that they would regret not working out. They also helped each other by making healthy eating choices whenever they went out for dinner.

Exercising With Diabetes — Know Your Choices

National Institute of Health (NIH) suggests modifying exercise according to your own needs. A general 30-60 minute workout is advised for adults, which they should perform most days in a week.

Children and adolescents (aged 10-17), with type 2 diabetes, are also advised to perform physical activity for nearly an hour each day. All such exercise should be from moderate to vigorous intensity and in no time you will find yourself among the likes of Phelps and Bolt, that is if they plan to slow down a bit.

If you’re breathing, sweating and talking easier than before, then your workout intensity is perfect and is taking effect. If difficulty in any of these indicators increases, the exercise intensity should be increased.

Celebrity trainer for Scarlett Johansson and Chris Hemsworth, Duffy Gaver, thinks that fitness is not something you go out and look for. He says, “Your intensity, how you attack the workout is everything”.

Not all exercise has to be performed at the same time — dividing and conquering is the way to go, All hail the Colonialists. You can divide your workout throughout the day if you do not have the stamina to do it in one go. Performing different exercises can also benefit and target different muscles in the body.

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1- Exercise For Diabetics: Cardio-workouts And Exercises

Cardiovascular or aerobic exercise, represents any physical activity that uses large muscle groups, is rhythmic in nature, and can be continuously maintained for long periods of time. Such exercise involves the heart, lungs, and cardiovascular system of the human body.

These systems and organs process and deliver oxygen more quickly and efficiently to every part of the body during the exercise, which helps engage nearly every cell of the body to lose weight.

At this point you’re probably thinking how exactly are aerobic exercises going to help me on my road to fitness?

Well, let us break it down for you. During these exercises, muscle glycogen or stored energy units are initially converted to glucose, which then passes through the process of glycolysis and is broken down into pyruvates. These pyruvates react with oxygen in the Krebs cycle and through chemiosmosis to produce carbon dioxide, water and energy.

In aerobic or “completely aerobic” exercises, all carbohydrates are turned into energy and no lactate forms due to the low intensive nature of the exercise.

When oxygen shortage occurs (anaerobic exercise for short intense periods), the carbohydrates in your body are consumed more rapidly as the pyruvate ferments into lactate. Lactate buildup can cause burning sensation in the muscles along with nausea and sometimes even vomiting if the lactate is not allowed to clear away from the blood stream.

Basically, these exercises build up your stamina slowly and are good for you when you first begin your weight loss journey, when the most crucial step is to achieve consistency in results.

Recently a research study has also found that exercise, both aerobic and anaerobic, promotes secretions of myokines (type of cytokines) and has benefits like new tissue growth, repair and various other anti-inflammatory functions which help decrease risk of developing inflammatory diseases.

These benefits can help negate any negative consequences associated with diabetes and can at least lower the risks of other health issues associated with diabetes, like cardiovascular issues.

cardiovascular exercise for diabetics

Some Of The Best Cardio Exercises For Diabetics

Walking — this is a safe and a low-impact exercise and is especially helpful if you are new, overweight or unused to physical activity. It can help you lower your blood pressure, risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and bowel cancer. Walking can also help you build better cardiovascular fitness.

The Heart Foundation suggests walking for just 30 minutes per day at a moderate pace for beginners. Walking for a longer time as you get fitter is even better while walking up and down a slope can help you build leg strength and stamina.

Furthermore, moving your arms in a swinging motion when you walk can help you walk quicker and burn more calories at the same time.

Running – To quote Iron Maiden “Run to the Hills, run for your life” – is a high impact exercise so the injury risk is higher. If you want to run or jog you should try running shoes which can help cushion the impact of running. Also aim to run on dirt tracks or grass which will put less stress on your feet and knees.

Greg Strosaker, a marathon-winning author and an online running coach thinks that you should aim towards losing 1-2 pounds each week and estimates that marathon training can help you lose

  • Around 100 calories each mile if you weigh from 120-150 lbs.
  • Around 120 calories each mile if you weigh from 150-180 lbs.
  • Around 140 calories each mile if you weigh from 180 lbs. or above.

Running — is an inexpensive exercise which can improve your bone and health. Moreover, you can run anytime, anywhere. When compared to walking, running is better for losing weight as it improves the heart health and burns calories at twice the rate of walking.  Jogging is just a slower running aerobic exercise which can help you transition from walking to running.

Swimming — it is best for people living in areas where it is too hot to run. Swimming is a perfect way to exercise if you are overweight and have joint issues. The water can support your weight and help relieve the pressure on your joints. An easy swim can help you burn 500 calories an hour however high-intensity swimming can increase calorie loss up to 700.

Swimming however is not as effective for losing weight compared to running or walking as your body does not work against your weight, neither does it help with bone loss.

Head Swim Coach at Washington and Lee University in Virginia, Joel Shinofield suggests that the workout routine for a newbie should be spitted into “shorter segments, mixing in a variety of work and rest intervals, and using different strokes, drills and intensities.” Shinofield suggests that not only would it make swimming more interesting but it would also result in a better workout.

Cycling — can help you stay eco-friendly while helping you get in shape. It can help improve leg strength, just look at Lance Armstrong (with all the legal reasons), and tone your legs and buttock muscles.  Furthermore, it does not put stress on your joints like running or walking does. Before you start cycling it is a good idea to find an appropriate bike and cycling gear so that you are as comfortable as possible.

cardio exercise for diabetics

What More? Spinning Classes At Gyms Are Viable Indoor Option

Other cardio exercises that you can do include rowing, aquarobics, boxing, cardio classes which help you accelerate you heart rate, and team sports like basketball, and football. You can also dance to some music — jazz, hip-hop, and Latin dances like the Zumba and Salsa, when performed at faster paces, can also help you lose weight while having some fun.

Recent Dancing With The Stars participant, Kristie Alley lost 100 pounds while dancing. Other celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and Minnie Driver have also lost weight using dancing workouts by undergoing a mix of Zumba, belly dancing, pylometrics, and strength training two to three times a week.

strength-training , exercise for diabetics

  1. Interval Training

Interval training is an approach to performing cardiovascular exercise in a series of low to high exercise workouts intermingled with periodic periods of relief or rest.  The high-intensity portions of the exercise are near to anaerobic exercises while the low-intensity portion can mean complete rest or a very light intensity exercise.

During the high-intensity portion of the exercise, your body burns more carbohydrates for energy while during recovery, it burns fats to produce enough energy to help you recover from your exertion. The process continues even after you have finished exercise and can last for hours.

Scientists at McMaster University have recently found that 20-minute sessions of interval training for 3 days per week provide benefits equal to that of 10 hours of steady exercise over the course of two weeks.

According to NHS, UK, interval training can help lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancers and type 2 diabetes.

Many athletes and celebrities use this technique to improve their performance in sports and achieve a better body shape. Interval training can involve different modes or variations such as Fartlek training, sprint-interval training, and high-intensity interval training.

Fartlek training, which originated in Sweden, involves running for large distances with periodic high-intensity running intervals.

If you are aiming for marathons and running competitions as your workout strategy, Greg McMillan, an exercise physiologist thinks that there is “no better workout for that critical period between your base phase and your racing season than the fartlek run”.

Sprint interval training usually involves running or sprinting to a distance at high speed and walking back to your original position. The sprint constitutes as a high-intensity interval whereas the walking back portion of the training exercise is the period of rest.

Sprinting is best to build and strengthen legs muscles, abs, and glutes. For beginners it is advised to start at half of your maximum speed until you start to feel comfortable.

A typical sprinting session for an average person should have 6-10 100 meter dashes. Each of the dash can be done at any speed. Remember to lift your leg in the air every time you lift your leg in the workout.

High Intensity Interval Training or (HIIT) is a very popular method of cardio training amongst celebrities. However, HIIT needs a high level of motivation to be adopted as a workout regiment due to its extreme nature. Its sessions can vary in duration from 5-30 minutes and has alternate short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with less intense rest periods.

Although, this type of workout provides improved glucose metabolism, you should talk to a workout specialist before you start it and read up on different exercises to achieve better results and to avoid any complications.

Josh Carter, a personal trainer and owner of Fit Body Boot Camp in West Hills told the Huffington Post that “There is a common myth that HIIT workouts are (or must be) super brutal, but this is just not true.” Carter suggests taking a plunge and start from a workout that is scaled to your fitness level.

A study on people with type 2 diabetes using HIIT revealed that participants who altered their exercise into fast and slow intervals lost weight, fat mass, and were able to control their blood sugar levels. The other group with type-2 diabetes which did not alternate their paces however, did not lose weight and their blood sugar and insulin levels actually turned worse.

  1. Strength Training Exercises

Want to turn into a diabetic Hulk? Strength training is the answer for you. It is the use of weights to exercise and build and tone muscles, making use of some kind of resistance to induce muscle contractions in the body. This can help build strength and the size of the skeletal muscles along with increasing anaerobic endurance. Strength training is anaerobic in nature and often makes use of the weight of the person doing the exercise, to strengthen muscles. This training can also help increase tendon and ligament strength by improving joint function and reducing the risk of any potential injury.

Resistant exercises can also increase bone density, fitness and improve cardiac function with other benefits being improved lipid profiles and increased muscle mass.

The American College of Sports suggests the following routine to achieve the best possible results with minimal effort:

  • 8-12 rounds of any resistance training exercise for each muscle group at a moderate to high intensity depending upon the level of fitness of the person performing it
  • 2-3 minutes of rest or recovery period
  • 2-4 sets of exercise for each muscle group

For strength training, the most important component is your form and position thus, it is better to exercise or train with an expert or a personal trainer.

Resistance training exercises can differ for different muscle groups. For example, for the abdomen you can try crunches, leg raises, Russian twists, and sit-ups. For the lower back, dead lifts and hyper-extensions work best. Other exercise such as leg presses, squats, lats, leg curls, and snatches can also be used.

Victoria’s Secret Angel, Candice Swanepoel suggests buying a resistance band and training whenever you have time to fit in your busy schedule while Chanel Iman suggests doing squats and hitting a weightlifting gym at least three times a week.

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Work Out, But With Care

These exercises work best when you warm up before you begin to sweat due to exercise. According to the above data, your next workout should be no less than 20 minutes to sweat and burn fat, maximizing the exercise results.

You can further increase the intensity and duration as time passes and your body adapts to a new routine.

Warm-up exercises are particularly important as they prevent injury to tendons, ligaments, and muscles while helping you prepare for specific exercises.

Warm-up or stretching exercises can also increase blood flow to the muscles and their temperature so they react quicker, which also helps you increase the range of movements of your joints.

The Women’s Heart Foundation suggests stretching to a point of mild tension. The right way to stretch is at a slow speed and by staying calm throughout the stretch whereupon the Foundation suggests you should not bounce which can potentially cause you injury if you pull a muscle.

Stretching should be performed for at least 5-7 minutes and each stretch should be held for at least 15 seconds each. Every major muscle group should be stretched before you begin.

After you complete your workout it is advised to cool down which can include slow walking or stretching for 5-7 minutes which helps to gradually return your blood pressure and heart rate to normal.

To review, whenever you perform any kind of exercise you must remember to consult an expert on diabetes, modify your diet and medication, talk to a trainer, find an exercise buddy, remain consistent, divide your exercises in different sessions to ease into a routine, upgrade your intensity as you exercise more often, do your stretches, plan your routine, decide on an evaluation system and most importantly, track your blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

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NOTE: Diabetes Type 1 and type 11 patients must meet their health care provider before starting any exercise regime. If they feel hypoglycemic during the workout, they should retract themselves immediately. Here only, general know how of the mechanism of exercise for diabetics is given. No responsibility in case of any trouble, will be on health Units’ or writer’s shoulders.

Co-Author: Huda Munir

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