People with diabetes work continuously to keep blood sugars in a healthy range to avoid developing diabetic complications.
Eating healthy and taking medications as prescribed are only part of the plan. The American Diabetes Association also recommends 30 minutes or more of daily physical activity to help control blood sugars.
Physical activity has many benefits for overall health, such as boosting energy, improving mood, controlling weight, reducing stress and promoting better sleep. It can also be social and enjoyable and help manage other health conditions, in addition to diabetes.
Any physical activity is beneficial, but many people manage blood sugars and weight with simply walking each day. Walking is a great way to exercise for many reasons. It is low impact, it can be done anywhere inside or outside, all ages can take part and it is free! More than half the muscles in your body are designed for walking, which makes it a very natural movement that can be done at any pace.
How can walking help control blood sugars though? Normally the pancreas releases a hormone called insulin when you eat. Insulin acts as a key to allow glucose from the blood stream to enter the body’s cells and other tissues, lowering the blood sugar level. With diabetes, most people develop resistance to insulin making it harder for glucose to enter cells and tissues. Walking and other exercises decrease insulin resistance, improving insulin sensitivity and blood glucose control.
Walking can also enhance weight loss, which can aid in blood sugar control. Walking may help the body burn calories and increase metabolism by building muscle mass. A weight loss of even 7 – 10% can help with insulin response and improve blood sugar control.
Remember to ensure safe physical activity with any exercise, including walking:
Test blood sugars before and after walking.
Always warm up before exercise with easy, gentle movements and cool down at the end of exercise by slowing down the activity and stretching the muscles.
Wear the appropriate clothing for comfort and wear well-fitting athletic shoes to prevent blisters, cuts and sores.
Prevent dehydration by bringing a water bottle with you.
Always carry an ID in case of an emergency.
If you have a fever or have high blood sugars with positive ketones, avoid exercise until feeling better.
November is American Diabetes Month. Learn more about Freeman Diabetes Education or take a free, online Diabetes Risk Assessment at freemanhealth.com/diabetes.