“Good food, exercise, and meds. Three rules, and none of them are hard.”
That’s Larry King’s secret to coping with his type-2 diabetes, from being diagnosed with it in 1995 to his death in January 2021. He was already over 60 when he got the diagnosis, but he managed to add several more years to his life thanks to a drastic lifestyle change. Also, keep in mind that he underwent a heart bypass surgery eight years before the diagnosis.
According to the CDC’s National Diabetes Statistics Report 2020, over 34 million Americans have diabetes, with another 112 million predisposed. Although other diseases may kill more people, diabetes remains one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. There’s no cure for diabetes yet—however, there are three things you can do to prevent the fatal effects of the disease.
While these three are essential in managing diabetes, exercise remains to be the most. The CDC says physical activity tunes your body to be more sensitive to insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar levels. Having diabetes means the body’s insulin can’t lower blood sugar adequately, so this benefit brought about by exercise is vital in prolonging one’s life.
If you have no idea how to start being active, this article will point you in the right direction. Here are several exercise tips according to doctors and multiple studies.
Exercise Before A Meal
Doctors say blood sugar tends to spike after having a meal or snack, known as postprandial blood glucose (PPG). While these spikes are normal, spikes that are too high and remain for too long can signify a problem. In the latter case, your body is too slow to respond to PPG, making exercise necessary to enhance its response.
In an interview with Today, Daniel Virgil, a professor of family medicine at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, shares his insights on the right time to exercise. Exercising before eating helps in recovering from muscle wear and tear and burning more fat. If that’s not possible, wait for one to two hours after eating to give your stomach more time to break down the food you ate.
To keep a closer eye on your blood sugar at these times, use a continuous glucose monitor. Because different foods produce different glucose responses, this device can alert you when your PPG isn’t normal. You can use the information to make adjustments to your diet or exercise regimen.
Aerobics And Strength Training Are A Must
WebMD suggests that a diabetic’s weekly exercise routine should consist of a total of 150 minutes of aerobics and two to three strength training routines. A study published in the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Care journal explains how these exercises regulate blood sugar.
Aside from lowering insulin resistance, aerobics also enlarges your mitochondria, the part of a cell that converts energy into adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and powers your muscles. As some organs like your heart are considered muscles, aerobics can help them function better.
Meanwhile, strength training increases muscle density and even insulin sensitivity. Doctors suggest performing this before aerobics as it reduces the risk of hypoglycemia.
Speaking of hypoglycemia, you may want to carry some source of carbs or natural sugar during a routine. Doctors suggest packing at least a granola bar, half-cup of freshly-squeezed fruit juice, or glucose tablets—anything amounting to at least 15 grams. Remember that having a low blood sugar level is just as dangerous as having a high one.
Stay Physically Active If You Cannot Exercise
Sometimes, you may forget to schedule your workouts, or you’re unable to because of muscle pains. In these cases, try to find low-impact exercises to remain physically active. Spending most of your week sitting idly or lying on your bed can worsen the effects of diabetes.
These low-impact exercises can range from walking to swimming. If you can spare at least half an hour a day for five days taking a stroll, which is an aerobic activity, you can meet your 150-minute weekly aerobic quota. You may also consider activities rooted in ancient medicine like tai chi and yoga, as multiple studies have shown their potential in regulating blood sugar levels.
Before doing any of these, make sure to get the all-clear from your doctor, especially if you have an injury.
Exercise, like diet and medication, isn’t that difficult to do but should be done with consistency. There’s no need for you to exercise like an athlete, just enough to keep your blood sugar under control. Coupled with due diligence on your part, you’ll enjoy a longer life and a healthier body.