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Control Diabetes with Exercise – The How To Plan

Exercise has been shown to have a direct effect on both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

Resistance Training is an Important Part of a Treatment Plan to Control Diabetes

November is diabetes awareness month.  According to The Canadian Diabetes Association “An estimated one million Canadians live with undiagnosed, type 2 diabetes, underlining the importance of raising awareness of its risk factors”. (4) Can you control diabetes with exercise?

When you have diabetes, resistance training is an important part of your treatment plan to control diabetes, since exercise has been shown to have a direct effect on both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. It is important to note that exercise must be coupled with an appropriate nutrition plan and medication compliance, especially when it involves insulin.

Dr. Jane E. Yardley, PHD conducted a study on, “Resistance Versus Aerobic Exercise.”(1)  The study was examining the acute impacts of resistance exercise on glycemia during exercise and in the subsequent 24-hour compared with aerobic exercise and no exercise.

The 12 test subjects were physically active people with type 1 diabetes. (HbA1c 7.1 ± 1.0%). One group  performed 45 minutes of weight training (3 sets of 7 exercises at an 8 rep max) on one day and 45 minutes of aerobic exercise (running at 60% of Vo2max) on the other day.  There was a control group that did no exercise. Subjects’ plasma glucose was measured during exercise and also for 60 minutes after exercise. Interstitial glucose was measured by continuous glucose monitoring 24-hours before, during, and 24-hours after exercise. The study concluded that weight training caused less initial reduction in blood glucose during exercise; however it was associated with more prolonged reductions in a post-exercise presence of glucose in the blood than aerobic exercise.

What does all of that mean for someone who is diabetic or pre-diabetic?

Exercise increases insulin sensitivity, which means the cells can utilize any available insulin more readily as a direct result of training. When the muscles contract during activity, they stimulate another mechanism that allows your cells to take up glucose and use it for energy, whether insulin is available or not. That is why exercise helps lower blood glucose in the short term and when you are active on a regular basis; it will also lower HbA1c.

After a workout, blood glucose varies depending on the length, intensity and type of activity. Physical activity has been known to lower blood glucose for 24-hours or more after working out. It is important to note that when you begin a workout program, blood levels should be checked before, directly after and then again two hours post-workout. Testing will help you to understand the benefits of working out, but will also prevent blood glucose from getting too high or too low depending on how your body reacts to the different activities.

Diabetics should be prepared for hypoglycemia, which is a deficiency of glucose in the bloodstream causing coma and possibly death. Type 1 diabetics are at a higher risk for hypoglycemia; type 2 diabetics are less likely to have issues, unless they are insulin dependent. It is important to have 15-20 grams of a fast-acting carbohydrate such as juice, glucose tablets or glucose gel. Wait 15-20 minutes, then, check your blood glucose levels. If the levels are still low, then ingest more of the fast-acting carbohydrates. Once your blood glucose levels return to normal, make sure to eat all regular meals and snacks to stabilize and regulate your blood glucose levels.

How Does Food Fit into It All?

People with diabetes shouldn’t need to add extra carbohydrates to their meals, unless they are exercising at a higher intensity for longer than an hour. However, when you are trying to lose weight, adding extra food to your meals may restrict your ability to reduce your weight. Before intensifying exercise, check with a Certified Sports Nutrition Advisor or Naturopathic physician to discuss your dietary needs.

Your Control Diabetes Plan

List of To Do’s for a Control Diabetes Exercise Program

  • See your doctor before you start you control diabetes exercise program. They will discuss dietary changes and will let you know if you need to modify your medication dosages. They will also discuss if there is a specific time of day that would be more appropriate to workout.
  • Make sure you keep a log of your blood sugar levels. Check it before exercise, right after exercise and two hours later. When working out for longer than an hour you may need to check it during the workout or may require a snack. Remember, if you are on insulin, you may need to make adjustments.
  • Always keep a small carbohydrate snack around, such as a piece of fruit or a juice box, on hand in case your blood sugar gets low. It is also a good idea to keep glucose tablets or gel on hand.
  • Strength train 2 to 3 times a week. You should aim for 2-3 sets of 6-8 exercises performing 8 to 12 repetitions to fatigue. You can lift weights, use resistance bands or do body weight exercise. Hire a certified personal trainer, if you aren’t experienced with exercise. You will also need to ease into it; start with 10 to 20 minutes of exercise at a time. Gradually work up to 60 minutes a day.
  • Never workout alone, always workout with someone who knows you are diabetic and knows what to do if your blood sugar drops. Wear a medical identification tag, or carry a card that says you have diabetes.
  • Drink water before, during, and after exercise.
  • Take care of your feet. Check and clean them daily. Let your doctor know if you notice any new foot problems.

Exercise is a very important part of maintaining your health whether you are border-line diabetic, Type 2 or Type 1. However, knowing the risk factors for diabetes will provide you with information to act and potentially lower your health risks. 

Working with one of Infofit’s certified trainers will help you achieve your personal fitness goals in a responsible, safe and effective manner. Hiring a certified Personal Trainer through Infofit is one of the best investments you can make with regard to your overall health and fitness. If you are serious about a future, fueled by healthy eating, increased activity and infinite possibilities, then start with your very own Infofit life coach and personal trainer.