One of the most powerful medicines we have access to is free.
What is this super-drug? It’s exercise. In fact, people living with diabetes can lower their blood sugars and improve their health by indulging in daily exercise or physical activities. Just ten minutes of exercise can assist with lowering blood sugars for the next 72 hours, said Pam Boeck, a registered nurse and certified diabetes educator at Norman Regional’s Outpatient Diabetes Center.
The benefits of physical activity are: decreased body fat, improved insulin sensitivity, increased muscle strength and bone density, and lower blood pressure. All of these benefits may directly or indirectly affect those with diabetes as there is a strong correlations between diabetes and heart disease, said Susan Pacific, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Diabetes Center.
“Often times, persons with pre-diabetes or diabetes are not diagnosed right away, so it’s important for all of us to be physically active,” Pacific said.
At Norman Regional’s Diabetes Center, patients in the Type 2 Diabetes Education Class have their blood sugar levels checked at 2:30 p.m., Boeck said. Then the patients participate in 10 minutes of light physical activity. After retesting themselves, some patients have seen their blood sugars drop as much as 100 points.
Moderate exercise increases insulin sensitivity because the muscles take up glucose at a faster rate which can lower blood glucose. But there are precautions a person with diabetes needs to take before exercising, Pacific said.
Drinking water before, during and after exercise will prevent dehydration. Pacific also recommends wearing a medical identification tag or card that states if you have diabetes.
Pacific uses the acronym SMART to help set exercise goals – which stands for specific, measureable, attainable, realistic and timely! Seek out activities that will work for you.
“Ultimately, it’s important for persons to know what motivates them and find activities they like doing to be successful,” Pacific said.
Some people with diabetes may have joint pain or complications such as nerve damage. Good exercise options for those people include water exercise, swimming, a stationary bike, and muscle stretching. There are also armchair exercises for safe stretching and strengthening.
Boeck said just taking advantage of exercise, the simple and free medicine, is the first step. “Start off slow and work your way up,” she recommends. “Even 10 minutes can make a difference.”