Health care teams always recommend that people with diabetes exercise regularly. When you exercise, it encourages your blood glucose levels to stay within your goal range. Exercise helps the insulin in your body to absorb glucose, and since muscles absorb glucose more efficiently than fat, the muscles you build from exercising can help prevent a rise in glucose levels.
A question many people have is how to choose between aerobic exercise and strength training. Here are the facts you need to make the best choice for your situation.
Choose not to choose
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends using both aerobic exercise and strength training to manage your diabetes most effectively. You're far better off developing a program of physical activity that uses both approaches.
How aerobic exercise benefits people with diabetes
Aerobic exercise is intended to improve your overall body condition by increasing your heart rate and use of oxygen. For people with diabetes, aerobics can help your body use insulin more efficiently.
The ADA recommends 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five days a week. Here are just some of the exercise routines and sports that are considered to be aerobic when done with enthusiasm:
- Riding a bicycle, using a rowing machine or getting out in the fresh air on a row boat
- Ice-skating or roller-skating
- Jogging or running
How strength training benefits people with diabetes
Strength training, also referred to as resistance training, helps to build muscles and endurance. People with diabetes benefit even more because the more muscle you have, the better your body absorbs glucose.
The ADA recommends doing strength training at least twice a week, in addition to aerobic exercise. You can go to a gym to work out with weight machines or free weights, but you can also train at home. Use resistance bands, lift weights like cans and bottles, and do regular home maintenance that requires heavy lifting.
How to get started
If you're starting a new exercise routine, make sure to check with your doctor first. Once you have the green light, create a plan to drive your activities. Think about your attitude concerning exercise. If you're not in great shape at the beginning, decide how you can start small and work up to the type of routine you'd like to have.
If you hate going to the gym, set goals for finding ways to get the exercise you need at home or by taking part in sports that you enjoy. If you can't easily fit 30-minute sessions into your schedule, plan more frequent workouts that are at least 10 minutes long. Research indicates that you can achieve virtually the same outcome with the 10-minute approach.
How to stay on track
Unless you are a fitness lover, you may find that staying with an exercise routine is more difficult than creating one. Here are some tips that will help:
- Ask for help: Find a neighborhood buddy to walk with or join a gym with a friend. Anytime you involve someone else in your exercise routine, the peer pressure makes it more difficult to stop.
- Define progressive goals: Without a goal, you won't have any feeling of accomplishment, but if your goals are too broad, you still won't feel like you're making progress. For example, it may seem that you'll never be able to walk six miles every day, but adding a half-mile to your route every week may give you the motivation you need to keep going.
- Track your progress: Try not to get discouraged if you backslide; just keep looking at the long-term progress you're making toward your goal.
Living with diabetes can be frustrating at times, but you can reduce that frustration by including a healthy exercise program into your routine. Start today. You'll be glad you did.