According to the Center for Disease Control, one in three American adults could have diabetes by 2050. Exercise, whether cardiovascular or strength training, is considered one of the most effective lifestyle changes someone can make to ward off diabetes.
If you’re diagnosed with diabetes, it’s important that you remain physically active. If you stay active and maintain a healthy weight, you’ll have better control over your blood sugar.
Having adequate control over your glucose levels can prevent long-term complications, such as kidney failure, diabetic neuropathy, and heart disease. People with diabetes are also more likely to develop blocked arteries, which can lead to a heart attack. Exercise keeps your heart healthy and strong. Regular exercise also helps you maintain good cholesterol.
Furthermore, there are other traditional benefits of exercise:
- Lower blood pressure
- Better weight control
- Increased good cholesterol
- Strong bones
- Better sleep habits
- Improved mood
- Lower stress levels
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Before You Begin Exercising
Unfortunately, many people diagnosed with diabetes are overweight, so the idea of starting an exercise program can be daunting. Before starting any type of exercise program, you must have clearance from your family physician.
Your physician will examine your cardiovascular function, which is especially important if you already have high blood pressure or signs of heart disease. You also need to take into consideration any other diabetes-related complications, such as diabetic retinopathy or neuropathy.
When you begin a fitness program, your doctor can refer you to a dietician and personal trainer to help create an exercise program that is best for you. In addition to obtaining medical clearance, you also need to set realistic goals.
Benefits of a Personal Trainer
If you’re new to exercise or haven’t exercised for a long time, you need to start slowly and gradually increase the frequency and intensity. If unsure of how to proceed, meeting with a personal trainer may be beneficial.
A personal trainer can pave the way to fitness success. Choose one that has experience working with diabetic clients. You can find certified personal trainers through the American College of Sports Medicine or the American Council on Exercise.
You should think of your personal trainer as an educator and a friend. Not only will he or she walk you through different exercise sequences, but they will also show you how to lift weights safely and effectively. Depending on your fitness goals, you’ll probably meet with your trainer two to three times a week. Based on your fitness capacity, your trainer will create a workout plan that’s specifically for you.
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Making the Most of Your Training Sessions
- Set up a plan – Before you start, have an action plan in place in case your blood sugar drops. If you find that your blood sugar is too low when working out, let your doctor know.
- Be present – Give your training sessions 100 percent of your attention. Leave your phone in the locker room and focus on your workout.
- Be consistent – A training session here and there won’t deliver the results you want. Consistency is key. Create a training schedule that fits into your weekly routine.
- Be open – If something doesn’t feel right or is too difficult, tell your trainer immediately. Never push yourself to the point of exhaustion.
- Be aware of your physical limits – Always keep an eye on your blood sugar while working out. You may have to avoid intense workouts or even stop and eat a snack to keep your glucose levels in check.
Exercising With Diabetes
Going to the gym is only part of the equation. Even under the supervision of a personal trainer, you need to make sure you are prepared in case your blood sugar drops.
It’s important to check your blood sugar before, during, and after you finish your training session. You may see a drop in your blood sugar while working out or immediately after a workout. Your glucose levels may also spike during an intense workout session.
Make a point of testing your blood sugar to learn how your body reacts to different types of exercise. Know where to draw the line. Even if you’re intent on finishing your workout, pushing yourself too hard can have serious repercussions. If your blood sugar is high before you start exercising, stop halfway through and check for ketones. If still present, it’s a good idea to stick to lower-intensity activities.
Types of Exercises
Whether you’re working out with your trainer or on your own, there are three specific types of exercises you need to do, which includes cardiovascular exercise, flexibility exercises, and strength training. Your goal should be to have an equal balance of all three.
There are many different exercises you can choose from. Shoot for at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise to boost your metabolism.
Find an activity that you enjoy, such as:
- Brisk walking
- Spinning classes
- Using the elliptical
Don’t be discouraged if you can’t go for the entire 30 minutes at first. Your personal trainer can help you build your endurance gradually over time. And remember, exercise is cumulative, so making small changes in your daily routine will carry over even when you’re not working out. For instance, you can park your car farther away when you go to the market, or take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Make sure you enjoy the exercise you’re doing. If it’s not fun, you probably won’t stick with it.
In between sessions with your personal trainer, why not take a group class with friends? Exercising with friends is a great source of motivation!
Once you’ve built up your endurance, your trainer will probably get you started with strength training. You’ll develop lean muscles and also maintain strong, healthy bones. If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, strength training is a must. Since muscles need glucose to function properly, strengthen training will give you control of your blood sugar.
Make a commitment to get in shape. Your future health depends on it; as difficult as it may seem, motivate yourself to go to the gym. It will help you lose excess weight and help your body use its insulin and glucose more efficiently.
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