Does Exercise Help Lower Blood Sugar?

Discover the connection between exercise and diabetes. Learn how regular physical activity can help lower blood sugar levels and improve overall health for individuals with diabetes and other risks.

By URLife Team
08 Feb 2023

Exercise is a powerful tool for managing blood sugar levels and preventing the progression of prediabetes to diabetes. Studies have found that regular physical activity can improve insulin sensitivity, lower blood sugar levels, and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

According to the American Diabetes Association, adults with prediabetes should aim for at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. Additionally, it is also important to maintain a healthy diet and lose weight if you are overweight.


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In this article, we'll explore the relationship between exercise and diabetes and discuss how physical activity can lead to lower blood sugar levels.


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How Does Exercise Help Manage High Blood Sugar?

Exercise is not only a great way to maintain a healthy lifestyle but it also has added benefits for people with diabetes. Engaging in regular physical activity can have multiple benefits to overall health, including maintaining a healthy weight, lowering blood pressure, improving cholesterol levels, building muscle and bone strength, reducing anxiety and promoting overall well-being.

It can help lower the levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, which are harmful to health, on the other hand, exercise increases the levels of HDL cholesterol, which is beneficial. Regular exercise can also improve overall well-being by reducing stress and anxiety.

Additionally, exercise has been shown to have a positive impact on blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity in people with diabetes. Studies have found that:

  • All forms of exercise, including aerobic, resistance, or a combination of both, are equally effective in lowering HbA1c levels in people with diabetes.
  • Resistance training and aerobic exercise have been shown to reduce insulin resistance in older adults who are at risk for diabetes, and combining the two forms of exercise is more effective than either one alone.
  • Individuals living with diabetes who walk for at least 2 hours per week are less likely to die from heart disease compared to those who are sedentary, and those who exercise for 3 to 4 hours a week can further reduce their risk.
  • Women living with diabetes who engage in moderate or vigorous exercise for at least 4 hours per week have a 40% lower risk of developing heart disease.

Overall, regular exercise is an important part of managing diabetes and preventing its complications.


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Things To Keep In Mind When Exercising

Before starting any physical activity, you must keep the following things in mind:

  • Stay hydrated by drinking fluids during physical activity to prevent dehydration.
  • Monitor your blood sugar levels before engaging in physical activity, especially if you take insulin.
  • If your blood sugar is below 100 mg/dL, consider having a small snack with 15-30 grams of carbohydrates to prevent low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) during physical activity.
  • If your blood sugar is above 240 mg/dL, check for ketones in your urine as this may indicate high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) and potential ketoacidosis, a serious complication of diabetes that requires immediate treatment.
  • Wear appropriate footwear, such as cotton socks and well-fitting athletic shoes, during physical activity to prevent injury.
  • Check your blood sugar level after physical activity to monitor its effect.
  • Check your feet for any injuries, such as sores, blisters, or cuts, after physical activity and contact your healthcare provider if an injury does not improve after 2 days.


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So, How Much Exercise Do You Really Need?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has got you covered with its guidelines and recommendations for how much physical activity is needed for good health.

For adults aged 18-64, the WHO suggests the following:

  • It is recommended that individuals engage in a minimum of 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity per week and 1.25-2.5 hours of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week. This can include activities such as brisk walking, cycling, swimming, running, or any other activity that increases heart rate and breathing.
  • Muscle-strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups on at least 2 days a week for added health benefits
  • Limit the amount of time spent being sedentary.
  • Engage in physical activity that exceeds the minimum recommended levels. This means doing more than just the standard amounts of moderate or vigorous exercise.

For older adults aged 65 and above, the focus is not only on aerobic activities but also on functional balance and strength training that can help to prevent falls and enhance functional capacity. This is an important point to consider as ageing can affect the body's balance and strength. Incorporating balance and strength training into their routine can help older adults maintain independence and improve their overall quality of life.

So, whether you're a fitness enthusiast or just someone starting out because of diabetes, these guidelines provide a great starting point for achieving optimal physical health. So, get moving and enjoy the many benefits that come with it!


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Ways To Exercise With Limited Mobility

If you have limited mobility, an illness, or weight issues, it's important to get medical clearance before starting any exercise routine. Consult with a healthcare professional, such as a doctor or physical therapist, to determine which types of activities are safe and appropriate for your condition.

When working with a healthcare professional to create an exercise routine, it's important to ask about the specifics of your exercise plan. Ask about the amount of exercise that is safe for you to do on a daily and weekly basis. Additionally, ask about the types of exercises that are appropriate for you to do and any activities that you should avoid. Lastly, it's important to ask if you should take medication at a certain time in relation to your exercise routine. This will help you create a safe and effective exercise plan that is tailored to your needs.

Exercise is a crucial component in managing diabetes and maintaining overall health. It has been shown to effectively lower blood sugar levels, but it is important to work with a healthcare professional and engage in regular health risk assessments. A personalised exercise plan and accountability from a physical trainer can also help to ensure success. Taking preventative action through regular exercise and health assessments is key to managing diabetes.


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