First and foremost, it is important to stick to low-impact exercises like walking, cycling [stationary bike], swimming, weight-lifting with light to moderate weights, or yoga.
The goal of your exercise plan should be weight loss or weight management, depending on your requirement, body conditioning, improved posture and, most importantly, blood sugar control. Caution: never start your exercise programme without your doctor’s approval.
As a diabetic, you should exercise, because:
- Exercise helps stabilise and control your blood sugar level. Exercise has an insulin-like effect and helps improve glucose uptake into the cells
- Exercise strengthens your heart. A person with diabetes has a greater likelihood of suffering from hardening of arteries, heart attack, and stroke. Exercise helps in lowering and stabilising your blood pressure levels and triglycerides; it improves cardioprotective HDL [good cholesterol] levels
- Exercise strengthens your mind. Regular exercise helps you gain a sense of self-control and confidence when you realise that by exercising you can actually control blood sugar levels. This helps to become more positive in one’s outlook.
Points to ponder
- Always monitor your blood glucose level before and after your exercise with a glucose monitor and maintain a record if you are insulin-dependant
- If your blood sugar is above 250 mg/dl, test for ketones in your urine. If ketones are present, do not exercise. Ketones indicate that your insulin supply is too low. Take insulin as advised by your doctor. Wait for blood sugar levels to come down, and ketones are no longer present, before exercising again.
- Do not exercise until you have eaten a light carbohydrate snack [an apple, or an orange], if your blood sugar level has dropped below 100 mg/dl prior to exercise
- If you are exercising in the gym, or doing yoga, exercise the lower half of the body on one day and the upper half, the next day. Remember never to exercise the muscle that you had your insulin injected into on the same day
- Wear clothing which allows your skin to breathe, like a cotton t-shirt with track pants that are not too tight at the waist. Make sure that you always wear cotton socks with comfortable sports shoes of your size [i.e., not too tight a fit] while exercising
- Always carry a card, which describes your condition in case of any emergency
- Always have a quick energy source like hard candy, or juice, with you in case you become hypoglycaemic, and feel dizzy during your work-out
- Keep your gym or trainer well aware of your condition
- Avoid high impact aerobics, squash, tennis, kick-boxing and other heavy-duty work-outs. If you are training with weights, stick to light-to-moderate weights and medium repetitions
- Drink plenty of water during, before, and after your work-out, to keep yourself hydrated
- Never hold your breath while exercising
- Never ignore any cuts or scrapes, especially on the legs even if they are minor. Clean the wound immediately with an antiseptic and do not leave it open. Consult a doctor, if it does not heal quickly.