Do you want to know how to lose weight, feel better and control your blood glucose levels the easy way? Take a walk! This really is easy exercise for diabetics.
If your doctor keeps telling you to get active but you’re not sure what kind of exercise to do, why not take a walk? Walking is the one of the easiest ways to get fit because you need very little preparation – we all already know how to do it! Studies have shown that people with Type 2 diabetes who walk daily are able to store sugar and burn fat more effectively. The result: better blood sugar control and weight loss.
That’s not all. Because walking is relaxing it lowers your blood pressure. This decreases your risk of heart disease. At the same time fitness, lung capacity, stamina and mental alertness all improve.
Still not convinced? It can even make you happier―walking is an excellent way to naturally boost your mood.
Because you don’t need special equipment, walking is ideal for beginners. A pair of well-fitting trainers will do the job. The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) recommends 30 minutes of brisk walking daily as part of a healthy lifestyle programme to manage diabetes. However, every journey begins with a single step. Start slowly with 5 or 10 minutes per day and try to add 5 to 10 minutes to your programme weekly.
What is the best technique? Watch your posture. Walk tall. Back straight. Look ahead and keep your chin parallel to the ground. Shoulders should be relaxed. Gently tighten your stomach muscles and tuck your pelvis in to bring it in line with your upper body. Feet must make contact with the ground heal first and then push off with the toes.
Need extra motivation? Use a pedometer, a small device that clips onto your waistband, to track the total steps you take during the day. With your pedometer at hand, find ways to activate your day as much as possible: walk the dog, window shop, use the stairs or walk to visit a neighbour. The end goal is 10,000 steps a day, but anything over 5,000 is a good start! Walking might be easy exercise for diabetics, but if you haven’t been doing much exercise at all it will take time to get used to it.
Want a challenge? Head off-road: go trail walking or hiking. Keep these points in mind when you’re going for an adventure walk:
Be wise. Hike in a group and choose your route according to the least fit person in your group’s abilities. Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back.
Be prepared. Hiking requires planning. Pack enough water for the trip to ensure that you are properly hydrated and take something sweet in case your blood sugar goes low. Avoid blisters and don’t hike wearing new shoes. Protect yourself from the sun: wear a hat and sunscreen.
Be aware of your surroundings. Check the weather forecast, be familiar with the route and carry a map.
Walking is the most recommended and popular form of exercise. It is plain to see why. It can be fun, relaxing and a great way to spend time with people. You can do it practically anywhere and it is a good excuse to visit new places. Best of all anyone can do it and it is really good for your health. Start today― take a few steps in the right direction.
Ask the expert: Diabetic tips for walking
We asked Dr Zaheer Bayat, one of our expert endocrinologists, for some tips on this easy exercise for diabetics. He pointed out that it’s important to balance enthusiasm and common sense when beginning an exercise program.
- Have a pre-exercise examination by your GP. This may include a stress test for patients over the age of 35 or have had diabetes for more than 10 years.
- Discuss with your doctor whether or not your insulin dosage needs to be adjusted.
- Choose an insulin injection site away from exercising muscles.
- Eat a snack approximately 15 to 30 minutes before exercise, and again every 30 minutes during exercise. Choose a snack that’s a slowly absorbed carbohydrate.
- Drink enough liquids before, during, and after exercise to prevent dehydration, which can upset blood sugar levels.
- Test your blood sugar before, during, and after exercise to figure out your body’s typical response to exercise.
- Be sure to keep some juice or sweets on hand in case your blood sugar goes low.
How to look after your feet while walking
We asked podiatrist Anette Thompson for some footcare tips.
- Go for a check-up with your podiatrist so that you know the status of your foot health.
- Blisters, hot spots, breaks in the skin or blood flow problems to the feet may go undetected; foot numbness could also be present without your being aware of it. These need to be treated.
- Wear well-fitting shoes that fit comfortably with at least 15mm length ahead of the longest toe and don’t rub at the heel. Try on new shoes, with socks, in the afternoon when your feet are at their biggest volume.
- Invest in good socks. Diabetic socks are made so that they don’t cut off circulation around the ankle.
- Check your feet after each walking session for cuts, blisters, hot red spots or abrasions.
Keen to talk about walking, or any other exercise? Chat to us on Diabetic South Africans!