Physical activity is incredibly important for individuals with type 2 diabetes! The good news is that being active is not as challenging as you might think.

How does exercise impact type 2 diabetes?
If you have diabetes, exercise makes your body more sensitive to insulin (the hormone that allows cells in your body to use blood sugar for energy), aiding in diabetes management. Furthermore, physical activity helps control blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of heart disease and nerve damage.

Some additional advantages include:

Maintaining a healthy weight
Weight loss, if needed
Improving memory
Controlling blood pressure
Reducing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and increasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol
Enhancing mental well-being
Improving sleep quality

How to maximize the benefits of physical activity?
The goal is to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week. One way to achieve this is by aiming for at least 20 to 25 minutes of activity every day. Additionally, on 2 or more days per week, include activities that engage all major muscle groups (legs, thighs, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).

Examples of moderate-intensity physical activities:

Brisk walking
Doing household chores
Mowing the lawn
Various sports

These activities engage large muscle groups, elevate heart rate, and make you breathe more deeply. Don’t forget to incorporate stretching, which helps improve flexibility and prevent soreness after physical activity.

Ways to get started:

Find an activity you enjoy.

Choosing an activity you enjoy is crucial for sticking to it. Discuss your preferences with your doctor, who can guide you to the most suitable activity.

Start small.

If you’re not physically active yet, start slowly until you reach the desired level. For example, you can park farther from the door, take the stairs, work in the yard, or walk your dog. Begin with a little and gradually add more time and intensity to your exercises each week.

Find a partner.

It’s more fun when someone else relies on you to show up. Having a partner can help you stay active.

Set a goal.

An example goal could be walking a kilometer every day for a month or being active every weekday for 30 minutes. Be specific and realistic, and always discuss your activities with your doctor.

Plan ahead.

The more regularly you perform a given activity, the faster it becomes a habit. Consider ways to integrate the activity into your daily life. For instance, plan a walk with a colleague after lunch. Try not to have more than two consecutive days without physical activity.

Special considerations for people with type 2 diabetes:

Before starting any physical activity, consult your doctor to choose the best activities for you. Don’t forget to discuss which activities you enjoy, how to prepare, and what to avoid.
Stay hydrated while being physically active to prevent dehydration (harmful loss of water from the body).
Remember to check your blood sugar before being physically active, especially if you take insulin. If it’s below 100 mg/dL, you may need to have a small snack containing 15-30 grams of carbohydrates, such as 2 tablespoons of raisins or ½ cup of fruit juice or regular non-diet soda, or glucose tablets, so your blood sugar doesn’t drop too low while being physically active. Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can be a dangerous condition.

If it’s above 240 mg/dL, your blood sugar may be too high (hyperglycemia) to be physically active safely. Test your urine for ketones – substances formed when your body breaks down fats for energy. The presence of ketones indicates that your body doesn’t have enough insulin to control your blood sugar. If you’re physically active while having high ketone levels, you risk developing ketoacidosis – a serious diabetes complication that requires immediate treatment.

After physical activity, check how it affected your blood sugar levels.
Also, inspect your legs for wounds, blisters, irritations, cuts, or other injuries. Consult your doctor if the injury doesn’t start healing after more than 2 days.

This material is for informational purposes and is not intended to replace consultation with a doctor. For questions, please consult your healthcare provider.

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