Why Exercise is Important if You Have Type 2 Diabetes

Getting regular exercise is one of the most important things you can do to manage Type 2 Diabetes. Along with eating a healthy diet and taking the medications your doctor prescribes, exercise will help control your blood sugar levels and your weight.

The Effect of Exercise on Blood Sugar Levels

Exercise can either decrease or increase your blood sugar levels. When you exercise, your body uses glucose as its energy source. Moderate levels of exercise, such as walking on the treadmill for 30 minutes, lowers blood glucose levels because your muscles use nearly 20 times more glucose as when they are inactive.

However, intense levels of exercise, or exercising for long periods of time, can actually raise your blood glucose (sugar) levels. This is because your body reacts to intense exercise as it does to stress by releasing adrenaline and other stress hormones that cause your body to increase blood glucose for energy for your muscles.

In general, it is a good idea to check your blood sugar levels before and after exercise. If your blood glucose is greater than 250 mg/dL and your ketones are positive prior to exercising, you should hold off until your levels return to normal. If your blood sugar increases after exercise, you may need to take a little extra insulin.

If you think you need to adjust your medication based on your physical activity, be sure to discuss this with your doctor initiating the activity.

How Does Exercise Help Control Type 2 Diabetes?

There are a number of ways in which exercise is beneficial for controlling Diabetes:

  • Exercise helps decrease body fat, which helps control your weight and improves your body's use of insulin.
  • It helps decrease your risk of heart diseases by lowering your blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol.
  • It strengthens muscles and increases bone density.
  • It decreases stress levels and increases energy levels.

Both strength training with weights and aerobic exercise helps diabetics manage and control blood sugar levels. If you have Type 2 Diabetes, become familiar with the affect different types of exercise has on your blood glucose levels. To have the greatest impact on your Diabetes, you should exercise daily for at least 20 to 40 minutes.

Exercise Tips for Diabetics

When you exercise, be sure to measure your blood sugar levels both before and after. Keep a source of fast-acting carbohydrates on hand in case you feel an episode of hypoglycemia coming on. To decrease the risk of an insulin reaction, you should try to eat your meals, exercise and take your medicines at the same time each day.

It is best to exercise with someone who knows what to do should you experience hypoglycemia, and consider wearing a medical ID bracelet in case you are unaccompanied during a time of distress.

Remember, discuss your typical exercise routine or any changes in types of exercise or activity levels with your doctor at regular intervals. If you have diabetic retinopathy (eye disease), diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage) or any other complications of Diabetes, some forms of exercise may not be appropriate for you. Your doctor can help determine how to integrate exercise in your lifestyle or if your medications need to be adjusted.