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Find Time to Exercise More With Diabetes

Updated on October 14, 2017
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Stephanie Hicks has been a Type 1 diabetic for 15 years. She manages the disease with an insulin pump, doctor visits, diet, and exercise.

Exercise is Important to Help Manage Diabetes

If you are facing a diagnosis of diabetes, have pre-diabetes, or are just simply looking for a way to get and feel more healthy, exercise is key.

The reality is that many people with diabetes have not made exercise a regular part of their lifestyle. Maybe its a demanding job. Children, pets and other responsibilities can make it feel like you don't have time to workout.

But that can easily change! Once you learn how to exercise more with diabetes, among the many potential benefits include sleeping better, experiencing less stress, lowering blood sugar levels, reducing risks of amputation or diminished eyesight, having more energy and an improved mood. Non-diabetics will enjoy the same advantages!

Exercise is important with diabetes. The trick is learning how to incorporate it into your daily lifestyle, especially if you are also overweight, feeling lethargic, overwhelmed, too young or too old, busy, and/or suffering from another illness or physical condition.

Running is my favorite exercise to help control my diabetes
Running is my favorite exercise to help control my diabetes | Source

Talk with your Medical Professional Before Starting a New Exercise Program

No matter your age, fitness level or medical condition, you should always consult your medical professional before starting a new exercise program.

If you have diabetes, the following concerns should be considered and addressed:

  • Impact on blood glucose levels: strenuous exercise can actually cause a patient's blood sugar to rise (due to stress), or fall dramatically
  • An eye exam will reveal any damage to retinas and/or eyesight that may impact athletic performance and safety
  • Numbness in extremities, particularly feet, as a result of diabetes may require use of special socks/shoes and restriction from certain activities
  • You should be weighed, obtain a recent A1c (average blood glucose levels), and review records of medication dosages and diet with your medical professional before embarking on a new exercise program

Be sure to discuss your plans and goals with respect to exercise with your doctor. He or she can provide advice specifically tailored to you and your lifestyle/history.

Diabetes may be difficult and time consuming to manage, but once you learn how to exercise more with diabetes, you will probably find that you sleep better and have more energy. In turn, you'll find more hours in the day!

Exercising with Diabetes

Exercise More with Diabetes: Keep it Simple

One of the keys to starting and staying engaged in an exercise routine is to keep it simple. This may be difficult when you may be overwhelmed by managing diabetes.

Most people will be motivated to exercise when the time commitment is small and the cost is low (or free). For this reason, walking is a very simple exercise that can be easily incorporated into your daily routine, no matter how busy you are.

Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. Don't waste time looking for the "perfect" parking space. Take the first one you see and walk the extra 100-200 steps to the entrance. If I have a phone call to make, I like to multi-task by going for a walk while talking. Up and down the hall works. If its a nice day, the fresh air will help you clear your head.

Have a dog? Make regular, short walks 10-15 minutes twice a day, part of your routine. You'll both be happier with the exercise.

You don't need a gym membership or expensive shoes to take up walking. Set an easy goal to start (10 minutes each day), and work up gradually from there. Some people find it inspiring and motivating to count steps with a pedometer or one of the popular models of step-trackers that can be worn on the wrist. Set a reasonable goal for a number of steps each day (4000-5000 steps) and aim to increase the daily total each week.

Swimming and diabetes is another very easy exercise to implement. Most people know how to swim. Access to a public pool is usually inexpensive. Just grab a swimsuit and goggles, and go enjoy yourself. Exercise in a pool is so much fun, you probably won't even realize that you are working out.

As discussed below, home-based workouts are also inexpensive and convenient. Work in an extra 10+ minutes per day and you will be on your way to exercising more with diabetes. If you take away the labels "workout" or "exercise" and simply focus on moving your body more often each day, you will likely find yourself on the path toward better health without even thinking about it!

Easy, Low Impact Exercise for Diabetes

Home Exercise and DVDs for Diabetics

If you have diabetes, or are simply just crunched for time to exercise, owning your own home exercise equipment such as light weights and/or exercise DVDs may be the answer. When you don't have to factor in driving, parking, travel time, etc., you will probably be more likely to exercise more often and keep a regular habit.

Start and/or finish your day by setting aside an extra 10-15 minutes for exercise. No matter how busy your day is

But before you go buy exercise equipment or DVDs, consider simply using household items for strength training or cardio workouts. Take the stairs in your home, apartment complex or office complex, if possible. Use your own weight resistance to build muscle with push-ups, planks and ab curls.

Even cleaning the house vigorously twice a week or yard work can be an effective way to sneak in extra exercise!

I'm a Type 1 (insulin dependent) diabetic. Whenever I work in the house or yard for more than 20 minutes, I have to watch my blood glucose levels so I do not become hypoglycemic. A healthy, light snack about 30 minutes beforehand may prevent issues when exercising.

Finally, many people that do not enjoy exercising have found yoga to be the answer. You don't need to join a studio to get the benefits of yoga exercise. Beginner yoga DVDs take you through a variety of poses that will make you more flexible, stronger and even improve circulation and digestion - additional benefits for people with diabetes.

Swimming is a good exercise for diabetes
Swimming is a good exercise for diabetes | Source

How Would You Exercise more with Diabetes?

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Lower your blood glucose levels if you have diabetes with exercise
Lower your blood glucose levels if you have diabetes with exercise | Source

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    • stephhicks68 profile image
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      Stephanie Hicks 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Bob - you are right that getting into a routine is very helpful and can help anyone exercise more - with or without diabetes! Cheers, Steph

    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 4 years ago from New Brunswick

      I have a daily routine that I have been following for about 8 months now and am enjoying to the point I look forward to it each morning. It include walking, free weights and stretching.

    • stephhicks68 profile image
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      Stephanie Hicks 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Alicia, thank you! I love sharing my diabetes and exercise experience! All the best, Steph

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is an interesting and informative hub, Steph. There's good advice here for everyone, including people who don't have diabetes!

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thank you so much, teaches! And congratulations on getting into a dedicated workout program to improve your health and avoid a diagnosis of diabetes. Appreciate the visit and comment. All the best, Steph

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      I started a dedicated workout a couple of years ago when I was on the verge of getting diabetes. It does make a difference in your life. Great suggestions here, Steph. I know that if you have posted them, then they are valid for those who suffer from this disease. voted up.

    • stephhicks68 profile image
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      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Walking is a fantastic exercise. What I love most about it is that it doesn't seem like exercise. :) Best, Steph

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Walking is my exercise of choice. I broke my hip some time ago anf the surgeon says I should walk an hour a day that sort of doubles what I used to do. for diabetes. I think exercise for diabetes is best if it is aerobic.

    • stephhicks68 profile image
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      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks everyone - so much of advice specific to diabetics can improve anyone's health. All the best, Steph

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Steph. Great info here for anyone with diabetes. Actually it's great info for anyone period. An exercise routine should be part of everyone's life. If there is a will, there is a way to fit in a few minutes every day. Thanks for sharing with us.

    • unknown spy profile image

      IAmForbidden 5 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

      useful info here. glad you shared this with us.

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Bill - thanks! Its an exciting Saturday night here in Oregon! ;-) Appreciate the read and comment, as always! Hope you have a great Sunday. Best, Steph

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Very useful information, Steph! Excellent advice from one who knows, and that's the best possible advice. :)