Diabetes and Exercise: Success Story
How It All Paid Off
To Auyer’s delight, her blood sugar levels have improved.
"Almost immediately, I noticed a change in my morning blood sugars, which are always really high," she says. After she started exercising, "they were dropping from an average of about 140 to 110. I was so excited one day -- I had one under 100."
Says Shahar: "I always use this analogy in people with diabetes: Their muscles are kind of sleeping, so they're not burning glucose or calories. But if they exercise, they keep their muscles awake all the time. They keep burning calories, they lose weight, they make the glucose work more efficiently in their body."
Like anyone else, Auyer sometimes gets off her exercise routine for a few days. She gets back on track by reminding herself why she started.
"For me, that reason was my father. This is what he would want and this is important," she says. "That's the motivation to keep going."
Tips for Getting Started
Ready to get fit? Shahar offers this advice:
Talk with your doctor. If you have heart problems, you might need a stress test. If you have high blood pressure, make sure your blood pressure is stable. If you have problems with the retinas in your eyes, ask your eye doctor if you should avoid certain exercises that increase pressure on the retina, Shahar says. If you have orthopedic problems, such as knee pain, back problems, or foot problems, an exercise physiologist can teach you appropriate exercises.
Check your blood sugar before and after exercise. "It's a motivation tool," Shahar says. “When you exercise and see your blood glucose improve, you'll probably do more because it's going in the right direction." In time, your doctor might be able to reduce your insulin or diabetes medications. But keep checking to make sure your blood sugar isn't too high or too low.
Keep snacks on hand for low blood sugar. Be prepared. Bring fast-acting snacks to the gym or on your outdoor workout in case your blood sugar drops too low while you're exercising.
Wear comfortable shoes. Good shoes will help you avoid foot problems, which can be more serious when you have diabetes.
Wear a diabetes ID. Wear a bracelet or necklace or carry something that says you have diabetes. It should list an emergency contact and say whether you take insulin.