Blood Sugar Level

Diabetes and Exercising

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes (and pre-diabetes) is a chronic condition which results in increased blood sugar levels (BSL). Diabetes occurs when the body loses its ability to control BSL due to the decreased effectiveness of the hormone insulin. The most common first appearing symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Fatigue
  • Excessive thirst and hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Weight gain/loss

Diabetes can be classified in two different ways:

  • Impaired Fasting Glucose: increased BSL at rest after a period of not eating.
  • Impaired Glucose Tolerance: increased BSL after eating and delayed return to baseline

Risk factors for diabetes included physical inactivity and a calorie dense, nutrient poor diet.

Benefits of Exercise for Diabetes

Exercise has been shown to have numerous effects on BSL and other health markers in individuals with diabetes. In the short term, the immediate effects of an exercise session can be reduced BSL and reduced spikes over the next 24 hours. Additionally, 45 minutes of aerobic exercise has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and have a positive impact on BSL for 48-72 hours after exercise.

The more exercise you do, the more benefits that can be seen. Long term exercise can cause the following changes:

  • Improved heart function
  • Decreased cholesterol
  • Improved BSL control
  • Increases metabolism

Goals of Exercise Program

The goals of a diabetes management or prevention program will be different for each individual, but some examples include:

  • Adherence to a weekly exercise program – 150 minutes of aerobic exercise (walking, running, cycling etc) spread out over at least 3 days, 2 days per week of strength training.
  • Weight loss of 5% of initial body weight
  • Improved diet (with assistance from a Dietician)

Exercise Recommendations:

The goal for exercising with diabetes is to achieve 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise with no more than 2 consecutive days without exercise. In addition to this, strength training should be done twice per week with the goal of building up muscle mass to improve insulin sensitivity. Support from an exercise specialist is recommended at the start with occasional supervision as needed following the initial phase.

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