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Diabetes management: Managing diabetes through exercise

Diabetes management: Managing diabetes through exercise | UPMC Health Plan

Regular physical activity benefits people with many different health conditions, especially those with diabetes.

Exercise can help lower your body’s blood glucose levels in a few different ways, aiding in diabetes management:

Through regular activity, your cells will become more sensitive to insulin. When this happens, your cells can more efficiently use glucose during and after activity.

When you are working out, your muscles are contracting. This helps stimulate another mechanism in your body that lets your cells take up glucose and use it for energy whether or not insulin is available.

Both of these actions can help to lower your blood glucose, and keep it lowered for up to 24 hours or more after your workout.

Consistent physical activity can help to improve your A1C levels over time, which can mean taking fewer diabetes pills or less insulin. There are a few things to do before jumping right into a regular workout routine:

  1. Talk to your doctor. Always talk to your health care team to come up with an action plan before beginning regular physical activity. People with diabetes who take insulin as well as some diabetes medications are more likely to have hypoglycemia (low blood glucose), which can be dangerous if your levels drop too low.
  2. Monitor your glucose levels. It is a good idea to check your blood glucose levels before and after different workouts. That way, you can see how your body reacts to different exercises and make sure that your blood glucose levels don’t drop too low.
  3. Plan ahead. Keep fast-acting carbohydrates handy during workouts, such as a sports drink or glucose tabs. These can help right away if you notice your blood glucose levels falling too low. Also make sure to eat a healthy meal before and after working out to keep your levels in check.
  4. Create a workout routine. Consider including different forms of activity into your routine, such as cardiovascular exercises, strength training, balance and flexibility, yoga, Pilates, swimming, or any other exercise you find enjoyable. Read our blog on strength training for some tips on where to start! (Insert link)

Also consider giving yourself a reward for hitting certain goals during your workouts, making it more likely that you will follow through. You don’t have to let diabetes get in the way of a healthy life. Small changes can really make a big difference!