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Learn about a host of diabetes-related topics such as how many Americans suffer from this disease to how to easily adjust to a new diet after diagnoses. This section will provide you with the information you need to make informed dietary decisions regarding diabetes.

How Does Exercise Help Manage Diabetes

While exercise can be beneficial for all, those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes should strive for more physical activity to help manage blood sugars.

How Does Exercise Help Manage Diabetes

Though it is well-known exercise plays a renowned in health, only one in three adults participate in the recommended amount of physical activity each week according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Statistics. And while exercise can be beneficial for all, those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes should strive for more physical activity to help manage blood sugars.

How Does Exercise Help Manage Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which the cells lack or are resistant to insulin (medically known as insulin resistance) to maintain normal blood glucose levels. Insulin can be thought of as a key, unlocking the cells and facilitating glucoses entry from the blood. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and other comorbidities, with weight carried in the abdominal area increasing the risk even more. Along with a healthy diet, exercise can help facilitate weight loss, manage blood sugars, and protect against long-term complications of diabetes, including heart disease and nerve damage.

Achieving a healthy weight, or less than 25 based on body mass index (BMI), has shown to improve insulin resistance and offer tighter control of blood sugar. Ultimately, when body fat is reduced, insulin has a greater opportunity to reach the cells and assist in glucose's entry. Regular exercise can also make cells more sensitive to the effects of insulin up to 24 hours following physical activity.

Additionally, activated muscles during exercise can use glucose for energy even in the absence of insulin. When the body is physically active and the muscles are working harder, the body needs to burn more glucose for energy, ultimately pulling it from the bloodstream. A mixture of aerobic and resisting training has shown to significantly reduce hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), a measurement to reflect the average blood sugar of an individual over the past 90 days.

Beyond physical the effects on blood sugar, regular exercise can lessen feelings of stress and boost mood. Regulating emotional stress can improve diabetes management, as blood sugars tend to rise following stressful moments and situations. And not to mention, high stress may trigger emotional eating, make it harder to lose weight, and lead to greater weight gain.

Diabetes and Exercise Recommendations

Before jumping into any exercise regimen, it is important to consult with your primary care provider and gain their approval. Registered dietitians and athletic trainers can assist in creating a safe and effective diabetes meal and exercise plan for you.

Most health experts advise to be active most days of the week, achieving at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise and incorporating two to three strength training days. But especially if just starting an exercise routine, it is important to start slow and buildup your endurance. Individuals are encouraged to warm-up for five to 10 minutes prior to loosen up the muscles, along with cooling down for five to 10 minutes to reduce heart rate.

You can also naturally increase physical activity in your day by walking or biking wherever you can, making family activities active, taking walks after dinner, and trying new and fun activities such as group exercise classes, dancing, and hiking. Ultimately, exercising is valued in a healthy lifestyle and your improved sense of wellbeing should be enjoyed!

Christy Zagarella's Photo
Written By Christy Zagarella, MS, RDN. Published on November 07, 2012. Updated on June 05, 2020.


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