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From the American College of Sports Medicine

What Kind of Exercise Is Best? continued...

Badenhop points out that certain conditions associated with diabetes may prevent you from exercising. The following conditions must be corrected before a person with diabetes can exercise safely:

  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) -- Signs and symptoms: double vision, fatigue, excessive hunger, tremors, increased pulse rate, nervousness, headache, numbness, slurred speech, excessive sweating.
  • Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) -- Signs and symptoms: increased thirst and/or hunger.
  • Ketoacidosis (high ketone levels in the blood) -- Signs and symptoms: abdominal pain, nausea, dehydration, drowsiness, fruity breath, glucose, and ketones in the urine.
  • Dehydration -- Signs and symptoms: severe thirst, dizziness, increased pulse rate, confusion, irritability, headaches.

In recent years strength training has come into its own as an essential component of overall fitness training, not just a training method for athletes and body builders. Aerobic conditioning will improve your cardiovascular system, but strength training can keep your muscles from weakening as a result of diabetes and preserve muscle mass during periods of weight loss. Weight training for people with diabetes should begin with light weights until your cardiovascular fitness increases.

The need to exercise regularly is independent of your age. Always warm up first before starting your exercises. If you are older and it is hard to get out, then begin with various small stretches, sitting down if necessary. Gradually work up to taking short walks. After a while you will probably discover that you can do more than you thought you could do. For individuals who have both diabetes and arthritis, exercise is a special challenge, but it is possible. Always warm up and then work on doing exercises that strengthen your muscles and make you feel better.

Even the best fitness program is not safe if complications are not diagnosed and treated, so be sure to obtain a complete medical examination before starting an exercise program.

Exercise Is Hard to Do ?

Starting a more active lifestyle is not easy, and it is even more challenging to stick to it, but rest assured that millions of individuals with diabetes before you have made these important changes in their lives, and you can too. Your first step, following a thorough medical examination, should consist of setting realistic goals with a schedule you feel sure you can maintain. At first your exercises should be fairly easy, perhaps short walks at a specific time each day. Then gradually build up your program and begin to include some cross training by changing elements of your exercise to keep motivated. Exercising with a partner is an especially good idea. Exercising alone can lead to discouragement and losing interest, but an exercise partner can provide the encouragement and motivation to keep you going. Finally, reward yourself whenever you achieve an exercise goal. The reward might be some new clothes or music, but not food!

For more information on how to begin an exercise program, see the ACSM Fitness Book, Human Kinetics Publishers (Champaign, IL, 1998).

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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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