Diabetes and Exercise: Getting Started
- Start slowly. If you haven't exercised in a while, begin with just 5 to 10 minutes a day. Build up by adding a few minutes or repetitions each week.
- Increase daily activity. Exercise doesn't only happen when you're suited up in workout gear. Add a little extra activity during the day whenever you can. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Deliberately park farther away from the supermarket entrance. Take a roundabout route into the house. Any extra movement counts.
- Relax, actively. You don't have to choose between exercise and TV. Set up a home treadmill, stationary bike, or exercise mat in front of the TV. Choose a couple of shows that you watch only when you're exercising. Viewing just one movie a week while working out -- in installments -- would take up most of your 150 minutes of aerobic exercise.
- Multitask. It's not only TV time that can double up as physical activity. Call a friend or relative when you're on a walk. Dedicate time on an exercise bike to reading a book or favorite magazine.
- If you hate exercise, think about why. Write down the five things you like least about exercise. Then figure out some answers. If it's boring or isolating, join a class or go on walks with a friend. If you hate the gym scene, exercise at home. If you're uncomfortable during exercise, try dropping down to a less demanding workout for now.
Tips on Exercising Safely
Exercising with diabetes does mean that you need to take some extra precautions.
- Talk to your doctor first before starting an exercise routine. He or she may have some specific advice about the best approach.
- Hydrate. You lose water when you exercise, and that can upset your blood sugar levels. It's important to drink water before, during, and after aerobic exercise to make up for what you're losing.
- Protect your feet. Because nerve damage and circulation problems from diabetes can lead to foot injuries, be careful. Get a good pair of comfortable sneakers. Before and after exercise, check your feet for any sores, blisters, or other signs of irritation. If you notice any, get treatment right away.
- Ask your doctor if you should check your blood sugar before, during, or after exercise. Find out what levels are too low and too high for exercising safely, and how to treat signs of low blood sugar.
- Watch the thermometer. If it's very hot or cold, pay special attention to your blood sugar. Your body uses insulin differently at extreme temperatures.
- Wear a medical identification tag. Wear a tag like MedicAlert or carry an identification card that states you have diabetes.
- Keep a snack handy. Have a snack with you in case your blood sugar level drops low while you're exercising.
- Check for ketones. If you have type 1 diabetes, do not exercise if your blood sugar is greater than 250 mg/dL and your ketones are positive. This could indicate that you have low insulin levels and exercise will cause an increase in your blood sugar.