Exercise in Diabetes Management

The role of exercise in managing diabetes is invaluable. It is one of the four cornerstones of diabetes care (along with diet, medication, and monitoring).

  • Exercise improves wellbeing and overall quality of life.
  • Regular exercise helps in preventing the development of type 2 diabetes[1] and is an essential intervention after diagnosis of diabetes as well to prevent complication.
  • Structured exercise regimen helps in managing blood glucose levels, aids to weight loss and reduces cardiovascular risk factors.[2]
  • Exercise also helps in improving muscular strength and flexibility.
  • Exercise can help relieve tension and stress, encourage relaxation, and improve mood.

All adults with type 2 diabetes should be involved in exercise of moderate intensity equivalent to 30 min/day or more, atleast 5 days a week. Youth with type 1 or type 2 diabetes should include 60 min/day or more of moderate- or vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, with vigorous, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening activities at least 3 days/week.[3]

It is not only essential to exercise but also reduce daily sedentary time in your day by adopting physically active life. In addition to formal exercise, there are many opportunities to be active throughout the day. Being active helps burn calories. The more you move around, the more energetic you will feel. These strategies can help you increase your activity level:

  • Walk instead of driving whenever possible
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Work in the garden, rake leaves, or do some household work every day
  • Park at the far end of the shopping centre lot and walk to the store
  • If you are working in office, do 2-5 minutes of desk exercises every hour

It is not a 'one size fits all' approach. Just like no particular diet suits all people with diabetes, no particular exercise regimen is suitable for all. It depends upon age, daily life style, comorbid health conditions and motivation.

It is always good to consult with your doctor and choose an exercise which you will love to do on daily basis. For example, you can choose between various options like playing outdoor games, gym, yoga, dance, walking and so on.

It is advisable to increase physical activity gradually. If you feel any discomfort, stop and take rest, monitor your glucose levels and visit your doctor.

Check blood glucose level before and after exercise