Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, especially for diabetics. Exercise burns off excess sugar in your bloodstream by diverting it as fuel for your muscles. It’s an excellent way to lower your blood sugar naturally.
There are a few considerations, however, that diabetics need to keep in mind in order to ensure safe, effective exercise.
Check your blood sugar
This needs to occur before and after exercising.
If your blood sugar is low prior to working out, try snacking on a small orange. Wait about 15 minutes, then check your sugar again.
If your blood sugar levels are high before exercising, have a high-protein snack like a handful of nuts and a slice of cheese. Wait for blood sugar to stabilize (this could take up to an hour) before proceeding to work out.
If you feel weak or exhausted while you are working out, your blood sugar could be out of whack. Stop exercising for a few minutes and check your glucose levels.
If your sugar is low, take a few sips of a sports drink, or snack on a few crackers. Wait for your blood sugar to stabilize before resuming your workout. The same goes if you experience low blood sugar post-workout. Have a snack, rest, then re-check your levels.
If your blood sugar is elevated after working out, have a hard-boiled egg, or some slices of turkey with avocado. The protein/healthy fat combo will help bring sugar levels back down.
Drink plenty of water
Drink 8-16 ounces bottles of water before exercising, sip throughout your workout, and drink plenty of water once you’ve finished.
Invest in a good pair of shoes
This tip is especially crucial for diabetics. Individuals with high blood sugar need to choose real athletic shoes that are in good condition, are appropriate for the type of exercise you’re performing, and fit your feet correctly. For example, don’t go for a long walk in your flip-flops!
Also be mindful of any numbness, tingling, or loss of sensation in your feet. Due to neuropathy, diabetics can sustain injuries (especially on the feet) without realizing. Check carefully for blisters, splinters, or redness every time you put your shoes on and take them off.
Make it fun by trying different techniques
One study found that diabetics who exercised using a Wii Fit video game as their only exercise for 12 weeks still experienced a reduction in elevated blood sugar levels. Pretty cool, right? Proof that you don’t have to sprint on the treadmill to reap the benefits of exercise. Find something you enjoy, and make it fun!
For example, about 30 minutes after eating a meal, take a 15-minute walk. Take along your spouse, kids, grandkids, or just enjoy some quiet solitude. That way, it doesn’t really feel like “exercise” but you are still reaping the benefit of better health and lower blood sugar!
If you do hit the gym, try breaking up your exercises instead of doing one extended workout. Research found that individuals who performed “high-intensity” exercise (10-minute bursts of activity, three times per day) experienced a greater decrease in blood sugar over a three-month period than individuals who exercised for 30 minutes once a day.
Keep safety in the forefront of your mind
Do not use gym equipment that you are unfamiliar with. If you are interested in how a machine works, ask a gym employee before trying it out. You could be seriously injured if you don’t use the equipment correctly.
Have something on your person that identifies you as a diabetic. An emergency alert necklace, bracelet or ID card works well. It may sound unnecessary, but if you have a blood sugar emergency while exercising, you need to make sure that responders will know how to help you.
We hope these tips for exercising help motivate you to get moving, be safe, and have fun!