Exercise & Diabetes
Managing your diabetes: Exercise and Diet
Diabetes and exercise:
By Karl Henry
Marathons, triathlons, ironman distance races – three very active sports to say the least. Would you believe me if I told you that many people with diabetes complete these events? An Ironman triathlon consists of a 3.8 km swim/ 180km bike and 42km run! That’s Dublin to Galway! Every year people with diabetes do these events all over the world! Now I ‘m not suggesting that each and every one of you sign up tomorrow for these races but I am suggesting that you exercise and I am going to show you how you can exercise safely and effectively. Diabetes is a condition that shouldn’t run your life. Some people think that if you have diabetes you can’t exercise. This is a myth amongst so many! But before you get your runners and start walking, read on for some more information that you are going to need. It is also important to discuss your exercise routine with your diabetes team before you start to change your activities.
How many minutes per day should people be aiming for:
The government recommends that you do at least 30 minutes of exercise per day and I think that this is easily doable for anyone across the country. But don’t stress if some days you don’t manage this, just do your best! You are trying to make changes that will last for the rest of your life, with life comes challenges, some days you may not get time to exercise, so put it behind you and do your best!
Motivation and goal setting tips:
So you’re all motivated and ready to start-well here is the best way to do it:
- What is the single biggest part of your health that you would like to change?
- This is your goal
- Plan out when you are going to do your exercise sessions and try to stick to it
- Weigh/measure yourself at the same time each week. You will always weigh heavier in the evening, so try to stick to the same time.
- Reward yourself when you reach your goals and then set new ones!
Suitable types of exercise for people with diabetes:
People with diabetes can do almost any exercise. Moderate exercise causes a glucose uptake at roughly 20 times the normal rate, it is only with intense exercise that you may need insulin after your workouts. There are some rules to help you:
- If your blood sugar level or ketone levels are very high then don’t exercise
- Try to get into a regular routine to avoid the risk of hypoglycemia
- Be careful exercising when your medicine is reaching its peak effect.
- If you feel shaky/weak/confused or have headaches then obviously stop straight away
- Always ensure that you warm up and cool down for a safe effective workout
- One area to keep an eye on when exercising is your feet, as people with diabetes are more susceptible to infections. Always dry your feet after showers, use moisturiser if needed and athletes foot spray if required
- Aim to have carbohydrates pre and post workout for the best results from your training and to keep your blood sugars constant
Every type of exercise has fantastic benefits for people with diabetes, such as:
- Increases the body’s use of insulin
- Burns body fat, increasing insulin sensitivity
- Increases energy
- Lowers stress
- Increased muscle strength and bone density
- Lowers blood pressure
- Better management of blood sugar levels
Tips for weight loss:
Real weight loss comes from a combination of three elements. Cardiovascular exercise such as walking or swimming, resistance workouts such as weights and an improved diet. Here are some tips to help you:
- Reduce the amount of high sugar products in your diet
- Choose carbohydrates that are higher in fibre e.g. oats, wholegrain, seeds, cereals
- Drink at least 2 litres of water per day
- Don’t forget to eat a nutritious breakfast, it really is the most important meal of the day
- Aim to do a minimum of 3 one hour workouts per week.
- Weigh yourself at the same time each week
- Some weeks you may plateau, don’t fall off the wagon, just keep it going and it will come off the following week.
Whether you have diabetes or not, you can exercise. Simply start slowly and build up your fitness levels over the course of time. The tips above will keep you safe and deliver effective results. Set your goals and start exercising!