So you hear a lot about exercise and your health. There are many articles on the internet about its benefits. Now you’ve been wondering whether it affects your blood sugar levels. Is it good? Is it bad? The world nowadays is quite a busy one, transport is all over. People have stopped walking and now are constantly using transport even when traveling shorter distance. Social media and TV as well have a huge impact on majority of people’s lack of exercise. As a result, obesity is on the rise. Obesity comes with all its complications. As obesity rises so does type-2 diabetes and pre-diabetes. How does exercise prevent this? Do exercises reduce your blood sugar levels?
Types of exercises
There are so many different kinds of exercise. These exercises are grouped into four groups.
Aerobic exercises are often referred to as cardio exercises. They involve continuous repeated movement of large muscles. They require pumping of oxygenated blood from the heart to the muscles thus increasing heart rate and breathing rate. Examples of aerobic exercises include walking, running, dancing, cycling, swimming, and cardio machines.
These forms of exercise improve muscle fitness by exercising a muscle or groups of muscles against an external resistance. Thus increase the muscle power, strength and endurance. Examples include free weights, weight machines, resistance belts etc.
These are also known as range-of-motion exercises. These kinds of exercise improve the ability of a joint to maintain movement necessary to carry out daily activities. Examples include stretching, yoga and tai chi.
These exercises help promote postural alignment, improve balance and prevent falls. They are important as they reduce the risk of injury. Examples include standing on one foot, walking heel to toe, yoga and doing tai chi.
Does exercise help lower your blood sugar?
Exercise helps reduce blood sugar in two major ways
1. During activity your muscles contract and your cells take up glucose and use it for energy. Your muscles need energy to work. To feed them, the body burns sugar as an energy source. The more you work out, the more your muscle will need more energy. This will result in decline in glucose (sugar) circulating in the blood.
2. Exercise increases your body’s insulin sensitivity. It makes insulin in your body to work better. This enables your muscle cells to use any available insulin to take up blood glucose.
It is vital to note that exercise may also prevent or delay the onset of type-2 diabetes by controlling your blood sugar levels. It does have a huge impact on preventing obesity which is an important risk factor to type-2 diabetes.
Aerobic exercises: aerobic exercises increase you insulin sensitivity and overall sugar control. Moderate to vigorous activity is associated with lower mortality risks in diabetes (both type-1 and type-2).
Resistance exercises: diabetes itself put you at risk of having lower muscular strength. Resistance exercises increase your muscle mass, muscle power, strength and endurance. These exercises also increase your insulin sensitivity. Performing resistance exercises prior to aerobic exercises reduces chances of having hypoglycemic events.
Flexibility and balance exercises: these exercises do not affect sugar control. However, they do have many other important effects on the body.
Other benefits of exercise
Exercise is good for your heart
Many heart diseases are associated with a sedentary lifestyle. If you have high bad cholesterol you are at risk of diseases like heart attack and stroke. High blood pressure also increases this risk. Exercise will strengthen your heart muscle and improve your blood circulation. This will lower your blood pressure and reduce bad cholesterol levels in the body.
Exercise is good for your weight
Depending on whether you want to lose or maintain your weight, exercise along with diet can help you achieve this. To maintain weight you must equal your calories with the energy you burn and to lose weight you have to burn more calories than you take in.
Exercise is good for your immune system
With exercise your body’s blood circulation is improved. Your heart muscle is also strengthened. Your body is then able to adequately pump oxygen and nutrients that are required to fight infections.
Exercise is good for your bones
Exercise does not only increase your muscle strength and balance, it is also important for treating and preventing osteoporosis (weak bone density). Osteoporosis is one of the biggest problems encountered later on in life.
The cancer prevention benefit
Some cancers are linked with being overweight or living a sedentary lifestyle (not exercising). These include colon cancer, breast cancer and lung cancer.
What is considered adequate?
To maintain or reduce your risks of health related problems, it is recommended that you do a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate- intensity physical activity for at least 5 days in a week. If you are just starting exercise, it is actually good to start slow and work up.
Light-intensity exercise: There are no breathing changes. You can easily carry on a conversation or sing.
Moderate intensity exercise: Your breathing is faster but you are not out of breath. You can carry out a conversation but you can’t sing.
Vigorous intensity exercise: Your breathing is deep and fast. You can’t say more than a few words without pausing for breath.
Exercise related hypoglycemia
When you exercise, your muscles needs more sugar than it would normally, for energy. To generate this energy, your body uses two sources of energy being, sugar and free fatty acids (fat). The sugar comes from different areas in the body, being the blood, the liver and the muscles. The sugar that is stored in the liver and muscle is called glycogen. That which is in the blood is called glucose.
In the first few minutes of exercise the body uses the sugar that is from the blood or the muscle. As the exercise continues, fuel starts to come from glycogen stored in the liver. As the exercise intensifies, the body will now need to get energy from the free fatty acids. Since the glycogen stores have been depleted, the body will need to replace these stores, the process which may take 4 to 24 hours depending on the intensity of the exercise. During this process, a diabetic person may experience a hypoglycemic event. The more vigorous and longer the exercise, the higher the chances of hypoglycemia.
To prevent this from happening, if you are diabetic, you should do the following to avoid hypoglycemia:
Ø Check your blood sugar before and after every exercise. It is advisable to check your blood sugar for 2-4 hours after exercise.
Ø Avoid exercising late at night. Complete all your exercise at least two hours before your bed time
Ø Limit your exercises to 1 or 2 per day
Ø Avoid alcohol consumption before or immediately after exercise
Ø Avoid hot tubs and steam rooms after exercise. They maintain the increased heart rate caused by exercise and may continue to lower your blood sugar
It is never too late to start exercise to gain its benefits. So get moving now. However, if you are just starting, consult your doctor to discuss which exercise may be best for you.
Start small: Even small changes are beneficial. You can start by taking stairs instead of an elevator, walking or cycling instead of using a car. Park your car far from your destination.
Start slow: If you haven’t been active, starting can be such a challenge. You can increase the distance or time as you build you stamina.
Make exercise activity fun:Avoid sticking to one type of exercise as it may be boring. Watch TV or listen to music whilst exercising.
Stay hydrated: Avoid dehydration by drinking water before, during and after exercise
Keep track of your progress: Track your exercise activities and your blood sugar levels before and after exercise. This can help you determine if your blood sugar drops are healthy or too much. Using a fitness tracker can help you set goals and keep you motivated.
Get a work out partner: It helps you to stay motivated and enjoy exercise. Exercise teams are even better.
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