More than 30 million Americans (9.4 percent of the population) suffer from either type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
If you’re part of this group, it’s important to make regular exercise a part of your routine. Regular exercise can help you lower your blood sugar, improve insulin sensitivity, and decreases your risk of developing other chronic diseases (such as heart disease).
Before you jump on the treadmill or head to your first hot yoga class, there are some things you ought to know. Keeping these workout tips for diabetics in mind will help you start exercising safely and will increase your chances of sticking to your workout routine long term.
1. Take Care of Your Feet
It’s common for diabetics to experience painful soles or arches while working out. If you struggle with neuropathy, the opposite might also be true, and you could experience foot problems without realizing it.
Be sure to take good care of your feet. This means wearing supportive, well-fitting shoes and clean socks. Be sure to check your feet before and after each workout, too — look for irritation, blisters, or redness. If any of these issues are present, stop your workout and make an appointment with your doctor.
2. Track Your Blood Sugar
It’s also important to measure your blood sugar regularly. Pay attention to your levels before, during and the day after your workout. Avoid working out on days when your blood sugar is too low (lower than 100 mg/dL) or too high (higher than 250 mg/dL). If your levels are too low, you can try eating a snack that consists of a fast-acting glucose source (juice, raisins, or glucose gels).
3. Ease Into It
Remember that you don’t need to become a triathlete overnight. In fact, you’re likely to see better, longer-lasting results from your workouts if you ease into them. If you’re coming from a sedentary lifestyle, start slow by adding in stretching or bodyweight exercises and trying to walk more throughout the day. This will help you avoid injuries and make it easier for you to stick to a program.
4. Don’t Obsess Over the Scale
Remember that the number on the scale is only one part of the total health equation. There’s a lot going on that you can’t see. Even if the scale isn’t shifting, if you’re working out regularly, you’re still making a positive internal change.
It may also take a while for you to see the number on the scale go down because you’re gaining muscle mass — pay attention to other markers of progress, such as the way your clothes fit or your energy levels throughout the day.
5. Maintain Your Activity Throughout the Day
Regular workouts are great, but you shouldn’t use them as an excuse to not move for the rest of the day. You can speed up your progress and improve your overall health by adding in more movement throughout the day.
Try to get up at least once every 60-90 minutes and walk around or do some light stretching. This will increase your total daily energy expenditure and help you avoid stiffness or soreness from your workouts.
6. Keep Carbs on Hand
It’s helpful to keep a small, carbohydrate-rich snack (like the ones listed above) on hand during your workouts. That way, if you feel that your blood sugar is starting to get low, you’ll be prepared.
7. Resistance Train
Resistance training is great for everyone, but especially for diabetics. It’s more effective for controlling blood sugar levels, as it does a better job at pulling glucose from your blood to help fuel your muscles.
Regular strength training will also help you increase your muscle mass. This, in turn, helps you speed up your metabolism and makes it easier for you to lose weight.
If you’re new to resistance training, start with simple bodyweight exercises like lunges, push-ups, and squats.
8. Work with a Professional
Finally, consider hiring a personal trainer to help you get started. They’ll be able to give you specific exercises that are ideal for your fitness level, and they’ll monitor your form to help you avoid injuries and see results faster.