Diabetes And Exercise: 10 Tips For Starting A Successful Workout Program

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Did someone convince you to start an exercise program… or at least convince you to think about starting one? Planning to start exercising, or at least to get moving, can be intimidating, and understandably so. Gyms look overwhelming, cycling looks dangerous, walking looks boring, and yoga looks just plain strange. Add diabetes to the mix and it may be easier to just scrap the whole thing.

But, and you’ve no doubt heard this a thousand times before, exercise has so many benefits! The benefits are both physical and mental, short- and long-term. So if you’re considering adding more movement to your life, good for you! People with diabetes of all types do have more things to consider than exercisers without diabetes (what’s new?), but an exercise program is totally doable. And it’s definitely worth it!

Before jumping in to how to prep for your workout, let’s get a little more motivated!

Physical Health Benefits of Exercise

  • Exercise lowers your blood pressure over time. Your risk for cardiovascular disease doubles if you have diabetes and high blood pressure, so lowering those numbers should be of utmost importance. High blood pressure is also associated with insulin resistance, and who needs that?
  • Exercise can help with weight loss. Yes, this one is a little obvious, but being overweight increases risk of cardiovascular disease and increases insulin resistance. A loss of just 7% of your body weight can have a positive impact on insulin resistance and reduce risk factors for cardiovascular problems.
  • Exercise increases insulin sensitivity. Muscles are better able to take up glucose both during and after exercise.
  • Exercise reduces blood sugar. Exercises reduces blood sugar in the short term since your muscles are taking up glucose, and exercise can also lower your A1C when performed on a regular basis. Score!
  • Exercise increases mobility and energy. Consistent exercise actually helps your body have more energy, and movement helps prevent the muscle loss that comes with age. For best results, include a mix of cardiovascular, resistance, and flexibility exercises in your routine (but it’s fine to start out with just one element or a little of each).

Are you motivated yet? Well, we have more!

Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

  • Exercise reduces stress. Nothing releases tension like a workout (especially with a punching bag)! Expect the mood enhancement to kick in as soon as 5 minutes after your workout. According to the American Council on Exercise, “One exercise session generates 90 to 120 minutes of relaxation response.” Now that’s a good payoff!
  • Exercise makes you feel great. Apart from just stress relief, exercise releases hormones that make you feel good about life in general. You may have heard exercisers talking about their addiction to endorphins or referring to a “runner’s high.” It’s real, folks! No wonder seemingly crazy gym-goers sign up eagerly for the gym’s next 5am gut-busting boot-camp class.
  • Exercise improves sleep.
  • Exercise improves libido.
  • Exercise improves self-esteem. Exercise provides you with unending opportunities to conquer your goals. Completing a workout is a huge boost all by itself, but each time you work for a few more minutes, lift a couple more pounds, or run a little faster you will feel super accomplished. Maybe you haven’t hit your goal weight yet, but you were the dancing queen in Zumba class, so who cares? Exercise shows you how amazing you already are.
  • Exercise can make you smarter. Learning how to do a new physical activity can improve cognition, and exercise increases the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is a neurotransmitter that stimulates the production of new brain cells. Win-win!
  • Exercise is addictive. That post-workout high gives your brain a “this is great!” boost that explains why people get up at the crack of dawn 5 days a week to get their run in before work. An activity that compelling, and that good for you, is certainly worth exploring! (No need to get up at the crack of dawn. Workout whenever works best for you.)

Okay, so hopefully you’re convinced that exercise isn’t a horrible idea. The thing is, most people know that exercise is good for them, but the trouble comes in when figuring out how to do it. When diabetes is a factor, creating an exercise plan can be that much more confusing. But don’t give up!

“Next” to read our 10 tips for creating your exercise plan!

Katie Taylor started writing in 5th grade and hasn't stopped since. Her favorite place to pen a phrase is in front of her fireplace with a cup of tea, but she's been known to write in parking lots on the backs of old receipts if necessary. She and her husband live cozily in the Pacific Northwest enjoying rainy days and Netflix.
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