Having diabetes is never a picnic. But fortunately, for a very large percentage of those who suffer from the disease, exercise can play a large role in the management of the condition. Not only does it improve overall health, helping to stave off future complications and deal with dips in well-being, it directly improves the diabetic condition. But, it needs to be done properly.
Before embarking on any exercise regimen, a diabetic should consult his or her physician and insist on clear answers and feasible suggestions. The diabetic will need to find out which exercises are safe and under what conditions. That will vary from person to person, and often day to day.
The level of blood glucose rises, for example, in response to exercise. But how much and how rapidly differs from person to person and day to day. A high blood glucose level, say 300 mg/dL can rise even higher with vigorous exercise. Those with Type 1 diabetes who have a fasting glucose level above 250 mg/dL will likely have ketones in the urine. Exercise can raise that further, producing a dangerous condition called diabetic ketoacidosis.
Alternatively, insulin treatments can produce hypoglycemia (having too low a level of glucose in the blood). But consuming carbohydrates to level it off may have undesirable side effects, such as encouraging excess body fat. That excess in turn may help push those with pre-diabetes into full blown diabetes, over time.
Any exercise routines should be realistic and begun slowly. Many diabetics need to reduce their level of activity below what would be normal for another person. But they can still benefit from the many positive health effects of a good routine. Just as with the elderly or others who may need to curtail some kinds of activity, the diabetic needs to monitor their condition carefully and exercise appropriately.
Think long term. Even people without any medical condition can become discouraged and give up on exercise too easily. Working muscles that have been sedentary (a lifestyle that often raises the risk of acquiring diabetes in the first place) can lead to soreness and discomfort. That creates negative incentives to continue the exercise program. Starting slowly and working up to greater effort can solve that problem. Adopt exercise as a part of an overall lifestyle, not as a targeted cure for any specific problem.
Walking several times per week is a good start. For those who have access to a pool, swimming is a good cardiovascular exercise category that is easy on the joints.
At first, you may feel a bit too tired to even get started. That may be the result of low blood sugar. If your physician approves, eating a small snack can help get you up for the effort. A small adjustment to medication may work for others.
Monitoring is important, even during exercise, since it can change blood glucose levels quickly. A special watch is available that provides a timer for measuring routines, but will also monitor glucose level. But whatever method you choose, keep a close eye on things. Stop if you feel dizzy, nauseous or experience symptoms generally.