Exercise is important for everyone, but it can be especially important for your health if you have diabetes. People who exercise regularly are better able to control their diabetes, thereby reducing their risk of diabetes complications. But despite these benefits, as few as 39 percent of people with type 2 diabetes get regular physical activity, according to a recent study.
Aerobic exercise increases insulin sensitivity and, along with proper nutrition, helps restore normal glucose metabolism by decreasing body fat. Strength training (resistance or weight training) also decreases body fat by raising the metabolism. It's main benefit, however, is increasing glucose uptake by the muscles and enhancing the ability to store glucose. Exercise can mean the difference between "medical management" and "lifestyle management" of Type 2 diabetes.
To get started with an exercise program:
- Find physical activities you like. Choose activities that you enjoy doing and that are convenient. Try new activities, such as walking, dancing, swimming, or bicycling, until you find one you like.
- Schedule your workouts. Make exercise part of your schedule, just like work and doctor appointments. Aim to work out for at least half an hour on most or all days of the week.
- Slowly increase your time and intensity. Don't start out doing too much, or you may get burned out. Begin with just a few minutes, and add a little time, distance, or intensity to your workouts each week.
- Find an exercise partner. Ask a friend or neighbor to join you in your exercise plan. For many people, having a person who is counting on you will make you less likely to skip a workout.
- Keep a workout journal. Each time you exercise, write down what you did and what your blood glucose levels were. That way you can keep track of your progress and see how activity affects your diabetes control.