Exercise Control Over Diabetes

Find the activities best for you and follow these tips to stay safe

Physical fitness is a good way to help feel your best and control diabetes. Working out helps manage blood sugar, keeps weight down, and lowers stress levels. Follow these tips.

Check with your doctor
Ask your doctor or health care team if the exercise you like is safe for you, says Dr. Albert Takem, an internist in Chevy Chase, MD. Talk about which activities to avoid, and if there are times you shouldn’t exercise.

Tell the gym
Let your fitness center and instructors know you have diabetes. Wear a medical alert bracelet. Some gyms offer specialty classes for people with diabetes.

Test blood sugar
Check your blood sugar about 30 minutes before you start working out, Dr. Takem says. If your blood sugar is less than 100 mg/dL, eat a snack to raise levels and wait 15 minutes. If your blood sugar is greater than 250 mg/dL, avoid exercising until levels go down.

Take your time
Start slowly if you haven’t been active for a while. Walk 10 to 15 minutes a day, and add minutes as you feel more comfortable.

Set a goal
Aim to do at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity five times a week. Choose an activity to get your heart pumping, such as brisk walking, swimming, or jogging. Add strength training on 3 days with light weights or your own body weight.

Drink plenty of fluids
Drink water before, during, and after you exercise to stay hydrated. Keep a water bottle with you.

Be good to your feet
Comfortable, sturdy shoes provide support and make exercise easier. Check daily for blisters or sores.

Keep Snacks Ready
Stop and check your blood sugar if you feel shaky, light-headed, or weak. If your blood sugar is less than 100 mg/dL, have a glucose tab or snack with 15 to 30 grams of carbohydrates. Some options:

  • 1 medium banana and 1 Tbsp peanut butter

  • 6 oz low-fat plain yogurt and 3/4 cup berries

  • 5 whole wheat crackers and 1 strand string cheese

  • 1 small apple or orange

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