It’s safe to say nearly all of us should be exercising more than we are. There are so many benefits to exercising that listing them all out makes you feel all the more guilty for not exercising more often. And yet, for whatever reason, most of us still don’t do it as much as we should. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that only one in five adults meets their overall physical activity guidelines, which is why adding exercise to your daily routine is a great idea for all of us, especially if you’re one of the millions of Americans who have type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Blount Memorial registered dietitian Angie Tillman says if you have diabetes, regular exercise is one of the most important things you should be doing. “When it comes to managing diabetes, there are three primary treatments: medications, changing your diet and changing your level of physical activity through exercise,” Tillman said. “Exercise has lots of benefits when it comes to helping manage diabetes. It lowers blood glucose, hemoglobin A1C, blood pressure and cholesterol. It helps improve sleep, relieves and help manages stress, and, of course, helps with weight management. It also strengthens your heart and improves circulation, and it can reduce symptoms of depression. But one of the main things exercise does – for all of us, not just people with diabetes – is it helps improve our overall quality of life,” she explained.
“Specifically, for people with diabetes, there are two types of exercise that are recommended by the American Diabetes Association,” Tillman continued. “The first is aerobic exercise. The goal is to get 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity at least five days a week. It’s okay if you can’t get to five days a week, but you should definitely aim for 150 minutes of exercise weekly. This can include walking, jogging, swimming, dancing, tennis, cycling, rowing or hiking. The second type is strength training. The American Diabetes Association recommends at least two strength training sessions each week using weight machines, free-weights or resistance bands. If strength training feels difficult or is new to your exercise routine, it’s important to remember to seek help from an expert who can help you tailor your workouts to your needs,” she explained.
When it comes to exercise, though, getting started can be half the battle. Tillman says starting slowly is the key. “You want to ease into any new exercise routine, particularly if you have diabetes,” Tillman said. “Start slowly, and be aware of how your workouts are affecting your blood sugar. Remember to be prepared in case you begin to notice symptoms of low blood sugar. Talk to your doctor about what types of exercise would benefit you the most, and if you struggle with something, consider reaching out to a personal trainer. We have several personal trainers on staff at the Blount Memorial Wellness Centers who would be glad to help. Also, it’s helpful to look for little ways to get more activity into each day, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, taking walk breaks at work or parking further away. Sometimes, it helps to team up with a buddy who can hold you accountable and help you make exercise part of your regular routine,” she explained. “The most important thing, though, is to find something you enjoy. This will help you keep at it when things get tough,” she added.