It may sound exaggerated, but it is reality: for diabetics, physical activity works as a medicine, it is also a way to save money; sedentary diabetics have a 63% higher financial expense for doctor’s consultations and medication compared to active diabetics.
It’s easy to understand how exercise works in the physiology of diabetes. Saying goodbye to a sedentary lifestyle minimises the main torment in the life of a diabetic: an excess of sugar in the blood. This is because practising exercise stimulates the production of GLU-4, a protein that collects excess glucose in the circulation to finally place it inside the cells; therefore, the patient needs less insulin to absorb sugar circulating in the blood. In addition, the benefits of exercise extend to other health issues: it lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, facilitates weight loss – which are essential for diabetics.
Let us, therefore, discuss some important aspects to be taken into account before starting a physical activity programme with the commitment to never stop.
- Consult your doctor.
- People with heart problems cannot begin an exercise programme without the cardiologist’s permission.
- Have your eyes tested to find out how your eyes are doing (diabetic retinopathy).
- Look for a physiotherapist, preferably with experience in monitoring diabetic patients.
Before leaving home to exercise:
- Set a time that does not coincide with the peak of glucose-lowering drugs.
- Have a light meal.
- Before starting the activity, measure your blood glucose level. If it’s below 100 mg/dl, eat something containing carbohydrates, wait, and re-evaluate blood glucose levels once again. If it has gone up, you can begin.
- Take your Diabetic ID with you. In case of hypoglycaemia, people will know what to do.
- Choose suitable socks and sneakers so you don’t damage your feet. Confirm that there are no foreign objects inside the shoe.
- Always take a small packet of sugar with you. If blood glucose levels drop too low (dizziness, mental confusion, fainting), it will be necessary.
During and after exercise:
- Measure your blood sugar level every hour and eat some type of carbohydrate (an apple or a cereal bar).
- During a longer workout, vary sweet and salty carbs so you don’t feel sick.
- When your exercise is over, check your blood glucose level once again so you don’t risk a late hypoglycaemia.
- When you get home, examine your feet (a family member can help). If you find an injury, wait for it to heal before going back to your exercise programme.
- Although physical activity lowers blood glucose levels, do not reduce the dosage of your medication at your discretion.
Finally, what kind of exercises can you do?
The effects of aerobic exercises such as running, swimming, cycling or playing football tend to lower blood glucose levels more rapidly, as they consume energy quickly. Aerobic exercises are indicated for diabetics as they are also beneficial for the cardiovascular system. Aerobic or resistance exercises, such as weight training, are essential for diabetics, as they keep blood glucose low for a long period of time, in addition to developing lean muscle mass which is excellent, since muscles are excellent consumers of sugar.
Article submitted by the HPA Group