If you have diabetes, you may wonder how physical activity can affect your blood sugar levels and your health. The good news is that regular physical activity can help you manage your diabetes and prevent complications such as heart disease and stroke. In this blog post, we will share some tips and advice on how to stay active and healthy with diabetes in Canada.
Physical activity is any movement that makes your muscles work and requires energy. It can be anything from walking, cycling, gardening, dancing, playing sports, or doing household chores. Physical activity has many benefits for people with diabetes, such as:
- Lowering blood sugar levels by helping your muscles use sugar for energy
- Improving insulin sensitivity by making your cells more responsive to insulin
- Reducing blood pressure by relaxing your blood vessels
- Strengthening your heart and lungs by improving your cardiovascular fitness
- Enhancing your mood and mental well-being by releasing endorphins
- Preventing weight gain or promoting weight loss by burning calories
According to Diabetes Canada1, people with diabetes should ideally accumulate a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity aerobic exercise per week, spread over at least three days of the week, with no more than two consecutive days without exercise2. Aerobic exercise is continuous exercise such as walking, bicycling or jogging that elevates breathing and heart rate.
In addition to aerobic exercise, people with diabetes should also perform resistance exercise at least twice a week1. Resistance exercise is any activity that makes your muscles work against a force or weight, such as lifting weights, using elastic bands or doing bodyweight exercises. Resistance exercise can help build muscle mass and strength, which can improve blood sugar control and prevent muscle loss.
However, before starting any physical activity program, it is important to consult with your health care team to make sure it is safe and suitable for you. Depending on your type of diabetes, medication regimen and blood sugar levels, you may need to adjust your medication dosage or timing, monitor your blood sugar more frequently or carry some fast-acting carbohydrate (such as glucose tablets or juice) with you in case of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
You should also be aware of some warnings and safeguards when exercising with diabetes3. For example:
- Don’t exercise on an empty stomach (fasting) and avoid delaying your meals
- Do very short intervals (10 seconds) at maximum intensity at the beginning or end of a moderate-intensity exercise session
- Do your strength/weight training exercises immediately before your aerobic exercises
- Wear comfortable shoes and socks that fit well and check your feet for blisters or injuries after exercising
- Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercising to stay hydrated
- Stop exercising if you feel unwell or experience symptoms such as chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea, or blurred vision
Physical activity is one of the best ways to take care of yourself if you have diabetes. It can help you control your blood sugar levels, improve your overall health, and enjoy a better quality of life. So what are you waiting for? Get moving today!
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3: Physical Activity: Warnings and Safeguards | Diabète Québec
4: Living with Diabetes – Canada.ca
1: Exercise & activity – Diabetes Canada
2: physical activity fact sheet – Diabetes Canada
5: Physical activity – Diabetes Canada
6: Physical Activity Guidelines – Diabetes Canada