Most people are aware that medications can be used to control diabetes. But how many know that a change in diet combined with a regular exercise program can also control diabetes? In fact, some patients have been able to reduce the number or amount of medications needed to control their diabetes. In many patients, they have been able to eliminate the need for medications completely with a good program of exercise and dietary change.
What are the benefits of employing a regular program of exercise? Patients who exercise regularly can see a lower blood glucose level, lower blood pressure, a better cholesterol level, improved ability to use insulin, have a decrease level of stroke, a decreased risk of heart disease, experience stronger bones, have less chance of falling, experience easier weight loss, have less body fat, have more energy, and have a reduced stress level.
In a patient who uses insulin to treat diabetes, exercise can become a part of their daily schedule, and it is possible that the insulin amount can be reduced, or even eliminated.
Any patient who would like to begin an exercise program should consult his/her primary care physician or diabetes specialist first. The best case scenario is an exercise program specifically for an individual patient. For a patient with heart disease, kidney disease, eye problems, or foot issues, there may be some physical exercises that should not be done.
How should one get started with an exercise program?
1. Find physical activites that you like. Walking, dancing, swimming, bicycling, are just some of the activities that could be attempted.
2. Schedule your workouts. Make exercise part of your schedule. Aim to work out for at least 30 minutes for at least three or four days a week.
3. Slowly increase your time and intensity. Don’t start out doing too much. Begin with just a few minutes, and add a little time, distance, or intensity to the workouts each week.
4. If possible, find an exercise partner. For some people, having a person who is counting on you will make you less likely to skip a workout.
5. Keep a workout journal. Each time you exercise, write down what you did and what your blood glucose was at the time. That is how you can keep track of your progress and also see how activity affects your diabetes control.
There is one caution about exercise and diabetes. What happens if you exercise to an excessive degree? There is a complication known as hypoglycemia. This is low blood glucose. With hypoglycemia, increased activity causes your blood glucose to fall dangerously low. This can happen while you are exercising or even hours later. If your blood glucose drops low enough, it can lead to a seizure or cause loss of consciousness.
Talk to your physician about strategies to deal with the issue of hypoglycemia. A snack prior to beginning to exercise may be helpul. Monitoring one’s blood glucose prior to, during, and after exercise may help to avoid hypoglycemia.
A regular program of exercise can also improve your self-confidence and your overall quality of life. Get started and see benefits in the near future.