BistroMD Health Library

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Fitness and Health

Fitness and health go hand in hand, and this section of our health library is devoted to exploring the relationship between these two very important aspects of life.

Use Exercise to Help Manage Type 1 Diabetes

With diabetes on the rise and the control of blood sugar in the U.S. worsening, America is in dire need to get a better grip on the growing chronic disease. Luckily, managing diabetes may be as simple as tying your favorite running shoes. Use exercise to help manage type 1 (and type 2) diabetes!

Use Exercise to Help Manage Type 1 Diabetes


Understanding Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the body is unable to use glucose (from carbohydrate sources) to fuel the body with energy, becoming inept when insulin lacks or becomes inefficient. Insulin can be thought of as a key, unlocking the cells' doors following carbohydrate intake. When proper insulin use becomes compromised, glucose is unable to provide energy to the cells and remain in the blood, thus creating "high blood sugar." Diabetes is further broken down into two types, type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes:

• Type 1 Diabetes
In type 1 diabetes, the body's own immune system destroys the cells that produce insulin, ultimately leaving insulin absent from the body and creating high blood sugars. Symptoms generally start during childhood and it cannot be prevented. Type 1 diabetes largely requires insulin therapy and needs to be monitored with close attention.

• Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is the most common type among the U.S. population. Insulin utilization is not compromised related to destroyed cells, but largely related to insulin resistance. Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with a healthy lifestyle including weight loss and maintenance through a nutritious diet and exercise.

How Does Exercise Help Diabetes?

Consistent exercise is essential for overall health, despite the type of diabetes being managed. Physical activity can improve health both physically and mentally, creating feelings of wellness and managing stress. Controlling emotional stress can keep diabetes better controlled, as blood sugars tend to rise following stressful moments and situations. When the body is physically active and the muscles are working harder, the body needs to burn more glucose (from carbohydrate) as energy, ultimately pulling glucose from the bloodstream and from muscle stores.

Exercise and type 2 diabetes further has a strong tie, especially with overweight and obesity present and leading to diabetes development. When body fat is reduced, insulin has an enhanced ability to reach the cells with much more ease, subsiding the condition of "insulin resistance" and encouraging "insulin sensitivity." Regular exercise makes cells more sensitive to the effects of insulin, even up to 24 hours following physical activity. But if taking insulin, mostly needed in type 1 diabetes, exercising can be a challenge. It is important to closely and frequently monitor blood sugars to prevent drastic fluctuations in blood sugars. Utilize the suggested tips below as precautionary measures!

Exercise and Diabetes Tips

1. Obtain Approval
Before jumping into any exercise regimen, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional to guide you into a safe, yet effective routine. A diabetes specialist team can provide a plan to reduce associated risks with diabetes and exercise.

2. Check Blood Sugars
Especially if just starting an exercise routine, checking blood sugars during, throughout, and ending a workout can help indicate patterns. Checking blood sugars is especially critical for individuals with type 1 diabetes, as they may need to adjust insulin dosages.

3. Pack Snacks
Consuming snacks is largely dependent on how hard and long you plan to exercise. In general, you may need to consume a snack if blood sugar is less than 100 mg/dL before exercise and between 100 to 250 mg/dL before exercise and planning on exercising more than an hour. A small carbohydrate snack (approximately 15 grams) can reduce the risk of hypoglycemia.

4. Easy Does It
Start slow! Even if activity time is five minutes, start slowly to buildup endurance. Work your way up to at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity most days of the week. Additionally, incorporating strength-training can reduce fat mass while fostering strong, lean muscle.

5. Have Fun!
Though working out may require close monitoring, especially in the beginning stages, exercising should be enjoyed! Have fun partaking in various activities such as group exercise classes, hiking, biking, or any activity that rises heart rate and utilizes muscle. Ultimately, when taking the necessary precautions, working out can be achieved in a safe manner. So grab a friend, your favorite music, and go get active!

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