The Effects of Exercise on Blood Glucose

By Alan L. Rubin, Cait James

Exercise is just as important as diet in controlling your blood glucose. A group of people who were expected to develop diabetes because their parents both had diabetes was asked to walk 30 minutes a day. Eighty percent of those who did walk did not develop the disease. These people didn’t necessarily lose weight, but they did exercise.

Too many people complain that they just can’t find the time to exercise. But a recent study showed that just 7-1/2 minutes of highly intense exercise a week had a profound effect on the blood glucose. So this excuse isn’t acceptable, especially when you realize how much difference exercise can make in your life and your diabetes. Here are some ways that different amounts of exercise can help you:

  • Thirty minutes of exercise a day will get you in excellent physical shape and reduce your blood glucose substantially.

  • Sixty minutes of exercise a day will help you to maintain weight loss and get you in even better physical shape.

  • Ninety minutes of exercise a day will cause you to lose weight.

An exercise partner helps ensure that you get out and do your thing.

Here are some more facts about exercise to keep in mind:

  • You don’t have to get in all your minutes of exercise in one session. Two 30-minute workouts are just as good as and possibly better than one 60-minute workout.

  • Although walking is excellent exercise, especially for the older population, the benefits of more vigorous exercise and for a longer time are greater still.

  • Everything counts when it comes to exercise. Your decision to take the stairs instead of the elevator may not seem like much, but if you do so day after day, it makes a profound difference. Another suggestion that may help over time is to park your car farther from your office or bike to the office.

  • A pedometer (a small gadget worn on your belt that counts your steps) may help you to achieve your exercise goals. The objective is to get up to 10,000 steps a day by increasing your step count every week.

You also want to do something to strengthen your muscles. Larger muscles take in more glucose, providing another way of keeping it under control. You’ll be surprised by how much your stamina will increase and how much your blood glucose will fall.

Resistance training (weight lifting) may be just as important as aerobic exercise in improving diabetic control. In the Nurses’ Health Study, for example, resistance training resulted in a substantial reduction in the occurrence of diabetes.

Place a daily limit on activities that are completely sedentary, such as watching television or surfing the web. Use the time you might have once spent on these activities to exercise. This advice is especially helpful for overweight children who should be limited to two hours a day.

You want to be active, but don’t do it at the cost of getting plenty of rest each day. People who sleep eight hours a night tend to be less hungry and leaner than people who sleep less.

Of course, it is possible to overdo it. One French diplomat found the phenomenal energy of President Theodore Roosevelt too much for him. After two sets of tennis at the White House, Roosevelt invited him to go jogging. Then they had a workout with a medicine ball. “What would you like to do now?” the President asked his guest when his enthusiasm for the exercise seemed to be flagging. “If it’s all the same to you,” gasped the exhausted Frenchman, “lie down and die.”