For sure, you’ve heard and have been told more than a thousand times how vital exercise is for a healthy lifestyle…even more so now that you are diabetic. According to Dr. Michelle Olson, an exercise physiologist and adjunct professor of sport science at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama, “Exercise will burn up some of the excessive sugar floating in your bloodstream to fuel your muscles during workouts. It’s basically a straightforward and natural way to reduce your blood sugar.” The good news though is that you need not to run a marathon, but can still achieve good exercise by doing several lifestyle changes:
- Do a blood sugar check. Make it a habit to check your blood sugar before working out as this can affect the effectiveness and safety of your routine. If you have low blood sugar levels, snack on 15 grams fast-acting carbohydrates–an apple, orange, slice of bread or granola bar–and wait 15 minutes before re-checking. If it normalizes, head on to the gym. If it still registers as low, continue with this 15/15 rule until your sugar level normalizes.
On the other hand, is your blood sugar levels register as high, focus on having a protein-rich snack an hour or so before you plan working out.
- Refuel ASAP. What you drink and eat after a workout is just as important as what you eat and drink prior. According to Erin Palinski-Wade, RDN, CDE, and author of “2 Days Diabetes Diet’, “refueling after exercise is important to prevent a drop in blood sugar levels.” The general rule is to aim eating 15-30 grams of carbohydrates for low blood sugar levels, and protein-rich food for high blood sugar levels.
- Hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate. People with diabetes need extra fluids to help keep their blood sugar levels within normal range–male diabetics require an average of 100 ounces of water a day, while female diabetics require at least 75 ounces.)
Keep in mind that you should never start a workout if you feel thirsty. Most times, even downloading an app or setting reminders on your phone for water consumption proves to be of great help.
- Walk after meals. An innocent walk after a complete meal may not be so innocent after all. It turns out, going for a stroll after eating helps direct blood sugar to active muscles, which then use up glucose, and in effect, lowers your sugar levels. A 15-minute walk should suffice 30 minutes after eating and cane be done after every family dinner. It can also double as another way to bond with the family!
- Lift weights. According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, doing both aerobic and resistance training 3 times a week can help improve blood sugar levels for Type 2 diabetics. Since regular exercise decreases your body’s fat:muscle ratio, the amount of insulin your body needs to help store energy in fat cells is also reduced.