Exercise plays a vital role in controlling diabetes. It helps is increasing the insulin action and aids in keeping blood sugar level in check. Exercise also helps in losing weight and improving balance, which are beneficial for diabetic patients as they are at increased risk for falls and obesity. It is recommended for individuals with diabetes who are over 40 years of age to include balance training in their weekly exercise routine (at least 2 to 3 times a week). It has been noted that lower body and core resistance exercises also helps in balance training.
Which Exercise is Best for Diabetes?
In general, any form of exercise is beneficial for diabetic patients. It is important to consult a medical practitioner before beginning with any form of exercise. The length of routine and intensity of the exercise can be increased gradually over a period of time. The following exercises are safe for any patient suffering from diabetes to practice:
Walking: This is the easiest form of exercise and also the most commonly prescribed form of exercise. It is advised to wear a good pair of shoes while walking for maximum benefit. Brisk walking is considered as a form of aerobic exercise which helps in increasing the heart rate. It is recommended to participate in aerobic exercises at least 3 days a week (150 minutes). The ADA (American Diabetes Association) recommends diabetic patients not to go for more than 2 consecutive days without some form of aerobic exercise session.
Tai Chi for Diabetes: Tai chi is a form of exercise where a series of movements are carried out in a slow and relaxed fashion usually over a period of 30 minutes. It is an ancient form of exercise practiced since centuries. This form of exercise is beneficial for patients with diabetes as it helps in stress reduction along with providing fitness. Tai chi also helps in improving balance and risk of nerve damage (a commonly seen complication of diabetes). Improving balance is vital for staying on your feet with aging, thus aids in living well and independently throughout life.
Weight Training for Diabetes: Weight training helps in muscle development. Loss of muscle mass can make it harder to maintain blood sugar level. Experts recommend practicing resistance exercise and weight training at least 2 to 3 times a week. It is important to provide a rest day between weight trainings (other forms of exercising can be carried out during this phase). Each session of weight training usually consists of 5 to 10 types of lifting exercise, involving all the major muscle groups of the body. For maximum benefit, it is advised to do 3 to 4 sets of each exercise with 10 to 15 repetitions.
Yoga: Studies have proved that yoga can benefit diabetic patients in multiple ways. Yoga assists in lowering body fat, fighting insulin resistance, improving nerve function, all of which help in management of diabetes. Besides physical benefit, yoga also helps in lowering stress level. It is important to note that with increase in stress level there is increase in blood sugar level. Unlike other forms of exercises, yoga can be done as often as desired. Yoga can also help in management of depressive symptoms which may be associated with diabetes and obesity.
Swimming: Swimming is another form of aerobic exercise which benefits the entire body. It is ideal for patients with type 2 diabetes as it can be practiced without applying excessive pressure to the joints. Buoyance provided by the water can be less stressful. It is easy on the foot as compared with walking or jogging. Diabetes can causes loss of sensation in the foot associated with other symptoms such as easy bruising, delayed wound healing, reduced circulation etc. Thus taking off any pressure from the foot is beneficial. Special shoes are availed which are designed for use in pool to avoid foot injury and reduce the risk of slipping.
Stationary Bicycling for Diabetes: Bicycling is also a form of aerobic exercising. This form of exercise also helps in strengthening the heart and improves the lung function. The advantage of stationery biking is that it can be done indoor irrespective of the weather condition outside. There is less risk of falling and going home walking. Bicycling also help in improving blood circulation in the feet and it also helps in burning calories and weight loss.
Other forms of exercising which are beneficial for management of diabetes include dancing, low impact aerobics sessions, water aerobics, playing tennis, climbing the staircase, playing basketball, running or jogging etc. Overall, exercises benefit diabetic patients by following:
- Lowering blood pressure level
- Weight loss and weight maintenance
- Increased level of HDL (known as good cholesterol)
- Stronger, leaner muscles
- Increased energy level
- Mood improvement
- Improved sleep
- Stress management
As with any form of exercising, it is advised to set a realistic goal before starting these exercises. It is advised to start slow and gradually increase the strength. In case of any discomfort, it is advised to stop the exercise immediately and consult a doctor before restarting the exercise.
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