Diabetes & Keeping Fit For Dummies Cheat Sheet
If you have diabetes, keeping fit is one of the most important things you can do for your health and your blood glucose management. It sometimes requires you to take precautions to exercise safely and effectively. For best results, do some resistance training along with other activities.
Exercising with Diabetic Health Issues
Exercise is a crucial part of managing your diabetes. If you’ve been mostly sedentary, start with mild or moderate exercise and progress slowly to prevent potential problems with any health complications. Brisk walking and other mild and moderate activities are generally safe to start on your own, but if you want to do vigorous activities, see your health care provider first to get checked for complications that certain activities may worsen.
Be prepared for the type of exercise you’re doing. For example, invest in the right shoes for the activity and dress in layers so that you can add or remove clothing if you need to.
Following are some precautions for exercising with diabetes in addition to any health complications:
- Carry a blood glucose meter to check your blood glucose level before, possibly during, and/or after exercise, or if you have any symptoms of a low.
- Immediately treat low blood glucose during or following exercise with easily absorbed carbohydrates like glucose tablets or regular soft drinks.
- Inform your exercise partners about your diabetes, and show them how to administer glucose or another carbohydrate to you should you need assistance.
- Stay properly hydrated with frequent sips of cool water.
- Consult with your physician prior to exercising with any of the following conditions:
- High blood pressure
- Neuropathy (nerve damage), either peripheral or autonomic
- Foot injuries (including ulcers)
- Proliferative retinopathy or current hemorrhaging
- Kidney disease
- Serious illness or infection
- Seek immediate medical attention for chest pain or any pain or discomfort that radiates down your arm, jaw, or neck.
- If you have high blood pressure, avoid activities that cause large increases in your blood pressure, such as heavy resistance work, head-down exercises, and anything that forces you to hold your breath.
- Wear proper footwear, and check your feet daily for signs of trauma such as blisters, redness, or other irritation.
- Stop exercising immediately if you experience bleeding into your eyes related to unstable proliferative retinopathy.
- Wear a diabetes medic alert bracelet or necklace with emergency contact information.
- Carry a cellphone with you when you exercise outdoors or alone.
No matter what you choose to do to be physically active, the most important thing is doing it. So many health complications associated with having diabetes long-term are preventable with healthful lifestyle changes — including regular physical activity. Even if you’re already suffering from some of these long-term issues, you really don’t have any excuses left for not getting moving to improve your health while you’re alive.
The best advice is to use having diabetes as an excuse to exercise, not as a reason to remain sedentary.
Resistance Training and Diabetes: How Much, How Often
Doing resistance training of any type is critical if you have diabetes (or even if you don’t have it and want to age well). It allows you to stay strong and independent, along with giving you a place to store the carbohydrates that you eat (that is, in muscles). Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you start resistance training:
- Do 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps per exercise.
- Start with a goal of one to two workouts per week of six to eight exercises. Eventually work up slowly to three days per week and 10 to 12 exercises.
- Don’t resistance train the same muscle groups more often than every other day.
- Gradually increase resistance or weight over time.
- Do exercises with slow, controlled movements.
- Extend and use the full range of motion around each joint you’re working.
- Breathe out throughout the exercise, preferably during exertion, and always avoid holding your breath.
- Stop exercise if you experience dizziness, unusual shortness of breath, chest discomfort, palpitations, or joint pain.