It’s so important to exercise – for general health and also for blood sugar control. But how do you start exercising today? We’ve outlined 5 easy ways.
Regardless of the type of diabetes you have, your doctor is likely to recommend a combination of diet, exercise and, if necessary, medication to help control your blood sugar levels. Many studies have shown that a healthy lifestyle is effective in treating diabetes.
If you’ve just been diagnosed, it can be overwhelming. How do you start exercising every day? Don’t stress if you’re someone who can’t recall the last time the word exercise passed your lips: even small steps in the right direction count.
Decide to start exercising, today
The decision to exercise is the first step to better health. “Exercise is literally the best medicine,” says biokineticist, Sarah Hall. That doesn’t mean you can stop taking your medication! But exercise will:
- Improve your health
- Decrease your stress
- Help you lose weight
- Make you feel well
No matter how you feel, there is usually some form of exercise that you can do. Find an activity that you like, and that you can do right now. This will make it a much easier habit to keep.
Diabetes educator, Kate Bristow, has put together a list of five activities for people with diabetes:
Walking fast for thirty minutes, five days a week is the global recommendation for all adults – with or without diabetes. For exercise “newbies”, you can break this up into shorter sessions throughout the day. A ten-minute walk immediately after a meal may be better for lowering blood sugar levels than a full half hour session once a day.
Cycle for 15 to 30 minutes three times per week. Depending on where you live, consider using a bicycle to commute to work or to nearby places you need to visit. Not only is it a good way to increase your daily level of activity; it can also make the trip more interesting.
3. Weight training
Low intensity whole body weight training helps the body to absorb sugar (glucose) into the muscles. As a result, your body becomes more sensitive to insulin and this can lower blood sugar levels. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn – even when your body is at rest. Get help from a qualified professional who can supervise you the first time you do the exercises. To start, your weight training programme may include two to three sets of 15 repetitions (reps) for each muscle group twice a week.
4. Tai Chi / Yoga
Tai Chi or Beginner Yoga are both forms of exercise that allow for gentle movements, through breathing and controlled contraction of the muscles of the entire body. It’s a good idea to join a class at first, so that you learn the correct, safe techniques. A beginner class is approximately 45 minutes. Let the instructor know if you are new to the class, so that they know to help you with the postures.
Swimming allows once again for the whole body to be involved, with movement performed in a supportive environment. As long as you take regular breathing and rest breaks, you will see good results.
Tips to start exercising today:
- Don’t begin something that you can’t commit to – financially or time-wise.
- Exercise needs to be regular and sustained.
- Any little bit of regular exercise is better than none at all.
- Start slowly and build it up – there is no point in hurting yourself in the first session.
- When you begin an exercise programme, it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor.
- Exercise can lower your blood sugar levels and the effects can last up to two days after. So it’s important to test your blood sugar regularly, especially before and up to four hours after exercise.
- Know how to manage low blood sugar if it happens.
No matter what kind of exercise you choose, your body will thank you if you start exercising today! Let us know what you choose, on our Diabetic South Africans Facebook community.