Exercise Benefits Diabetics: A Measured Approach

We all know that exercise is good for us, but for most people living with diabetes, exercise is essential. For diabetics or those who are at risk of becoming diabetic, the right type and right amount of exercise are important to reap the benefits of physical activity.

Diabetes is a disease where the body does not make enough of the hormone insulin or the body’s cells do not correctly use glucose (sugar). Both situations can result in glucose levels that are consistently too high as measured through an A1C blood test.

For those living with the disease, exercise can limit the debilitating side effects of the disease, which include nerve damage, sight loss and kidney disease. For those at risk of being diagnosed with diabetes, exercise has been proven to push back or prevent the diagnosis. One study published in the American Diabetes Society’s Diabetes Care publication showed that those who shed 5 to 7% of their body weight and exercised regularly reduced their risk of developing diabetes by about 55%!s

We all know that physical activity is good for the body and the mind. According to the American Diabetes Association,  the list of benefits from physical activity is long. Just in case you need a reminder, exercise has been proven to:

  • Burn calories to help lose or maintain weight
  • Lower blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Lower the risk for heart disease, stroke and osteoporosis
  • Increase energy for daily activities
  • Improve sleep
  • Relieve stress
  • Strengthen the heart, muscles and bones
  • Keep the joints flexible
  • Improve balance to prevent falls
  • Reduce symptoms of depression

Exercise can prevent and improve high blood glucose, too, by increasing the body’s ability to absorb glucose during and after workouts. But it is important for diabetics – especially those experiencing complications from the disease — to take a careful approach to exercise and consult with a physician before starting a program of physical activity.

Exercise that is too vigorous or too high impact, like competitive sports, may result in the body feeling stressed, which in turn elevates blood sugar levels to provide fuel for the muscles. Yes, rigorous exercise may actually increase your blood sugar! In addition, a workout that is too intense may cause a diabetic’s liver to stop releasing glucose to the cells, which impacts energy levels. That’s why it’s important to monitor blood sugar levels before and after exercise – and possibly even during an activity. Other risks of high-impact workouts for those with diabetes include vascular damage to the eyes (retinopathy) and nerve damage to the feet (peripheral neuropathy).

People with diabetes should consider moderate-intensity, low-impact workouts, such as walking, yoga and swimming. A few sessions a week of strength training with light weights or resistance bands are important, too, to prevent muscle loss.

Walking on the AlterG® Anti-Gravity Treadmill™ under the watchful eye of a physical therapist may be a safe exercise option for diabetics who have other medical complications, such as arthritis, decreased balance, deconditioning and post-surgery healing. The AlterG’s advantage over other exercise options is that it provides gentle lifting pressure and precisely unloads body weight in 1% increments. The AlterG can provide the exact amount of support necessary to walk with less effort and reduce impact. In other words, it offers a cardiovascular workout with limited body impact, which may allow those who previously thought they could not exercise to do so. The other advantages of Anti-Gravity Treadmill products include a fall-safe environment, reduced pain, potentially longer exercise sessions and the ability to maintain a normal gait. The AlterG can make exercising fun for people of all ages, weights and physical condition levels.

There’s no way around it — a regular routine of moderate exercise is a necessity for those living with diabetes. The American Diabetes Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate impact exercise 5 days a week to help regulate how glucose and insulin work in the body and improve overall health.

It takes motivation, dedication and perseverance to exercise regularly, but the reward may be fewer complications from diabetes and a better quality of life. Go for it!

Want to know where you give your exercise routine a lift with AlterG? Check out the ZIP Code Locator to find a facility close to your home or work.