The Best Exercises for Diabetics

25 May, 2020
Sport and exercise can be a great help in controlling diabetes, but it's important to know what exercise you can do. It's also important not to over do it. We'll give you some more guidance in this article.
 

Knowing the best exercises for diabetics is an important part of keeping their condition under control. Along with medication and the appropriate diet, sport is another great way of regulating blood glucose levels.

Diabetes is an endocrine and metabolic disease which leads to poor control of blood sugar levels. However, it’s not just about glucose; diabetes also has an impact on the levels of lipids and proteins in the body.

The cause of the problem is the level of the hormone, insulin in the body. The body may not be producing enough to reduce blood glucose levels, or it might no longer work because the body has developed a resistance.

Types of diabetes

Although there are various types of diabetes, there are two which are the most common. Type-1 diabetes is when the body doesn’t produce insulin, and this is generally something that people have from childhood. Although, this isn’t always the case. On the other hand, type-2 diabetes is normally where the body has developed a resistance to insulin. This more commonly develops in adulthood and later life.

Type-1 diabetics have to inject insulin into their blood to make up for its absence. Type-2 diabetics can take oral medication, either to reduce the levels of blood sugar or stimulate its entry into cells.

Regardless of the type of diabetes, any treatment should always be accompanied by a strict diet and physical exercise. That’s why it’s important to know what the best exercises for diabetics are and what precautions they should take.

 

Best exercises for diabetics: benefits

Medicine has long known the benefits of physical exercise for diabetics, whether type-1 or type-2. These include:

  • It stimulates the entry of sugar into the cells. When you exercise, your muscles need energy, and that energy can be produced from glucose. Therefore, doing exercise tells your muscles to absorb sugar from the blood to generate energy.
A man doing weight lifts.

  • It helps control body weight. Diabetics need to watch their weight carefully and avoid becoming overweight or obese at all costs. Excess fat makes the action of insulin difficult.
  • Exercise is an adjuvant for diabetes drugs. When diabetics perform a regular, controlled exercise, they end up decreasing the doses of insulin or oral medication that they use in the medium term. This can help avoid any side effects of the medication.
 
  • It reduces cardiovascular risk. Diabetics are one of the groups with the highest risk of cardiovascular problems. High blood glucose for a long time damages the arteries, which increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Physical exercise reduces cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose, leading to decreased cardiovascular risk.

Precautions for before exercise

Diabetics need to take certain precautions before exercise, and it’s important to stick to them so that exercise doesn’t end up making their condition worse.

One of the basic things they need to know is their blood glucose level before they start exercising. If it’s very low, they’ll need to eat something that raises their blood sugar. If it’s very high (greater than 250mg/dL), then they shouldn’t be doing any exercise.

It’s also important to measure blood sugar levels once they’ve finished, since they normally reduce significantly, and this can lead to hypoglycemia. If you’re exercising for more than half an hour, it’s a good idea to consume some carbohydrates to make up for the blood sugar that you’ll lose.

Finally, hydration is very important. Not only should you drink water during exercise but you should also start drinking water at least one hour before you start.

What are the best exercises for diabetics?

Now you know how beneficial exercise is and what precautions you need to take, here are some of the best exercises for diabetics.

The first option is an aerobic sport, such as swimming, running, or cycling. The oxygen intake during these activities stimulates your metabolism and, at the same time, activates muscle masses that absorb sugar from the blood.

 
A woman running, which is one of the best exercises for diabetics

But diabetics can also perform strength training in the gym, as long as you do it under the supervision of and after consulting with a doctor. Your trainer should know the limits that are most appropriate for you.

Lastly, stretching and flexibility exercises can be very good for diabetics. In this case, the exercise won’t lower your blood glucose levels as much, but it’ll help protect your joints against the wear caused by high sugar levels.

Should I exercise if I’m diabetic?

Obviously, the clear answer is yes. All diabetics should combine medication, diet, and exercise to keep their condition under control, as well as strictly monitoring their blood sugar levels.

If you’re diabetic, you should consult with your doctor about which sport is best for you and what precautions you should take. Over time, if you’re persistent, you’ll realize many more benefits than just controlling your diabetes.

 
  • Carrasco, Mery Adriana Franco, et al. El ejercicio combinado como prevención de la diabetes mellitus tipo II (DM2). RECIAMUC 3.4 (2019): 123-142.
  • Rodríguez, Raidel González. Efectos del ejercicio físico aeróbico en pacientes con diabetes mellitus tipo 2. Revista Electrónica Dr. Zoilo E. Marinello Vidaurreta 41.4 (2016).
  • Silva, Franciele Cascaes, et al. Ejercicio físico, calidad de vida y salud de diabéticos tipo 2. Revista de psicología del deporte 26.1 (2017): 13-25.
  • Gargallo-Fernández, Manuel, et al. Recomendaciones clínicas para la práctica del deporte en pacientes con diabetes mellitus (Guía RECORD). Grupo de Trabajo de Diabetes Mellitus de la Sociedad Española de Endocrinología y Nutrición (SEEN). Endocrinología y Nutrición 62.6 (2015): e73-e93.