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Type 2 Diabetes and Exercise

Exercise is good for everyone, especially if you have type 2 diabetes. It's one of the best things you can do for your weight and your blood sugar levels, along with eating a good diet and taking any medicine your doctor prescribes. The benefits include:

  • Helps your body use insulin, which controls your blood sugar
  • Burns extra body fat
  • Builds muscle strength
  • Strengthens bones
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Cuts LDL (“bad”) cholesterol
  • Raises HDL (“good”) cholesterol
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Makes heart disease and stroke less likely
  • Boosts energy
  • Tames stress and helps you relax

How Does Exercise Affect Blood Sugar?

When you exercise, your body needs extra energy from glucose.

For short bursts of activity, such as a quick sprint to catch the bus, your muscles and liver release glucose for fuel.

If you're doing moderate exercise for a longer time, your muscles take up glucose at up to 20 times the normal rate. This helps lower your blood sugar levels.

If you're doing intense exercise, your blood sugar level may rise, temporarily, after you stop.

11 Tips for Getting Started

  1. Choose an activity you enjoy. Anything that raises your heart rate and keeps it up while you're working out will improve your aerobic fitness. That helps you better manage your blood sugar levels.
  2. Talk with your doctors. Let them know what you want to do. They can make sure that you're ready for it. They'll also check to see if you need to change your meals, insulin, or diabetes medicines. Your doctor can also let you know if it matters when you exercise.
  3. Check your blood sugar. Ask your doctor if you should check your blood sugar before exercise. If you're going to work out for more than an hour, check your blood sugar levels regularly during your workout, so you’ll know if you need a snack. Check your blood sugar after every workout, so that you can adjust if needed.
  4. Carry carbs. Always keep a small carbohydrate snack, like fruit or a fruit drink, on hand in case your blood sugar gets low.
  5. Ease into it. If you're not active now, start with 10 minutes of exercise at a time, and gradually work up to 30 minutes a day.
  6. Strength train at least twice a week. Strength training can improve blood sugar control.
  7. Make it a habit. Exercise, eat, and take your medicines at the same time each day to prevent hypoglycemia.
  8. Go public. If possible, exercise with someone who knows you have diabetes and knows what to do if your blood sugar gets too low. Plus, it's more fun to work out with someone else; it can help you stick with it. Also, wear a medical identification tag, or carry a card that states that you have diabetes, just in case.
  9. Be good to your feet. Wear good shoes, and practice proper foot care.
  10. Hydrate. Drink water before, during, and after exercise to prevent dehydration.
  11. Stop if you have any unexpected pain. Mild muscle soreness is normal. Sudden pain isn't.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on May 27, 2013
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If the level is below 70 and you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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