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Exercising With Diabetes: Tips for Working Out

You’ve heard the advice: Get active at least 30 minutes every day. But if you’re short on time and the idea of the gym doesn’t thrill you, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got tips for getting active outside of the gym, along with a checklist for safe exercise when you have diabetes.

The benefits of exercise are many, especially if you have diabetes. Exercise helps you burn extra sugar in your body and helps improve insulin sensitivity. It burns calories too, helping you lose extra body fat. Exercise can also relieve stress and boost your mood and overall health.

Aerobic exercise can lower your chance of heart disease, a special problem if you have diabetes. Resistance exercise builds muscle, which helps you burn fat and control your sugar levels.

Exercise Tips for a Healthier You

Exercise will help you control your diabetes and have fewer of the problems diabetes can cause. Keep in mind these tips to exercise safely with diabetes:

Here are some easy daily activities that count toward your daily goal.

Walk the dog. If you don’t have a pet, walk with a friend or neighbor. Or get some work buddies to join you in a lunchtime stroll. 

Rake leaves, mow the lawn, or dig in the dirt to clean up your garden.

Play tag with your children or grandchildren.

Ballroom dance. You can also take dance lessons — modern, ballet, or hip-hop. It doesn’t matter what type of dance you choose, as long as you get moving.

Roller skate. It burns about 225 calories per hour and uses muscles that may be rusty.

Play tennis or any team sport. You’ll make some new friends and stay active.

Swim. It’s a great total body workout and helps you relax. It’s also a low-impact workout that is easy on your joints.

Take an evening after-dinner walk. Walking at the end of day can help you unwind and feel less stressed after a busy day. Challenge yourself with plenty of hills and new routes.

Try to sneak activity into your day when and where you can:

When doing work around the house, pump up some fun music and make all your movements bigger. Squat while you work: Bend from the hips and knees like you’re sitting down in a chair. Make sure your knees don’t go farther forward than your toes.

Take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you’re going to a high floor, get off a couple of floors below and climb the rest of the way.

Don’t call or email your colleagues at work. Walk over to a co-worker’s desk for a face-to-face.

Walk or pace when you’re on the phone, at home, or at work.

Park your car at the far end of the parking lot. And bring your bags out to the car after every purchase.

Stay Steady With Exercise

Most people drop their exercise program as quickly as they started it. Don’t let that happen to you. Here’s how to keep up this healthy habit:

Don’t go all gung-ho. If you’re not used to exercising, ease into it to prevent burnout and injuries.

Find an exercise buddy. You’re more likely to show up if someone is counting on you.

Put exercise on your calendar just as you would a meeting or appointment.

Change activities to keep from getting bored. This also keeps your body from getting too efficient at any one activity, so it keeps burning calories.

Set goals you can do. For instance, decide to walk for 10 minutes after lunch at least 4 days a week for the next 2 weeks. After that, you can up your goal to walking 15 minutes. Write your goals on an index card and hang them where you’ll most likely see them — on the bathroom mirror, the fridge, or on your car dashboard.

SOURCES: “Diabetes and Exercise.” “Diabetes & Fitness: Get Moving! — with Richard Weil, MEd, CDE.”
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC): “What I need to know about Physical Activity and Diabetes.” 
Ann Levine, diabetes clinical nurse specialist, Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, N.Y.

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