Diabetes is the most common metabolic illness in the world and approximately 9.6% of the Irish population are afflicted by this disease. Most of those affected have Type 2 Diabetes, which is primarily attributed to being overweight.
With this disease, your body’s blood glucose levels are too high, either due to your body not producing enough insulin (the chemical needed to break down blood glucose) or because your body is too resistant to insulin. This can have a huge impact on the health of your organs and can lead to further health complications affecting your hearts, eyes, kidneys and more.
On top of maintaining the illness with a special diet plan and proper medication, it’s also extremely important to stay fit and active in your daily life to help control the diabetic symptoms.
The benefits of exercising for diabetics
Physical activity has many benefits for keeping this condition under control, most importantly in that it helps to maintain blood sugar levels. When you exercise, your muscles use up glucose — regardless of whether or not you are insulin-resistant, or what your insulin levels are — and therefore helps to reduce your blood sugar.
But on top of that, exercise reduces the long-term risks associated with diabetes, such as blocked arteries, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and many more.
Because of all these benefits, it is actually recommended by Diabetes Ireland that diabetics exercise for at least 30 minutes per day, five days a week. So what are some things you can start doing today? We’ve got some ideas…
Arguably the easiest and most accessible form of exercise that diabetics can do on a daily basis to keep active is to simply spend more time walking. It may not sound like much, but it’s important to start small so you don’t overwhelm yourself, especially if you’re older or extremely out of shape.
Walking is a form of aerobic exercise that will increase your heart rate and keep your body healthy. It is recommended that diabetics dedicate at least three days a week to brisk walking sessions.
One of the best things about yoga is that it’s easy for total beginners to jump in, but has plenty of opportunities for increasingly difficult sessions. Regardless of your ability level however, yoga reduces stress and blood sugar levels.
Research has shown that yoga helps lower body fat, fight insulin resistance, and improve nerve function, which are all extremely beneficial to anyone with diabetic symptoms.
Hopping in the pool is a low-impact form of exercise that doesn’t put too much pressure on your joints. Swimming also has a lower risk for cuts and blisters compared with running and biking. Foot injuries are a big deal for diabetics because low blood pressure in small blood vessels causes cuts and bruises to heal extremely slowly.
Building strength actually makes your body more sensitive to insulin, which makes weight or strength training essential for health-conscious diabetics. You can use free weights, workout machines, resistance bands, or join group classes that specifically focus on strength training.
Focus on sets that include 10-15 repetitions for optimum results and avoid intense workouts in favour of more frequent sessions.
Of course, alongside all the benefits of physical activity, those with diabetes should always consult a doctor or certified trainer before doing anything too strenuous. Your goal should always be long-term health, and working too hard is a sure way to encourage injuries and health complications in the future.
If you live in Dublin and are managing diabetes, the BodyScene team offers specialised workout plans. Our Diabetes Programme includes 30 one-hour sessions that combine everything from general fitness assessments and personalised workouts to personal trainer sessions and nutritional supplements for the best possible workout routine.
To find out more about this programme or our long list of other specialised programmes (e.g., menopause, back care, sports injuries and more), book a fitness evaluation today!