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10 Simple Exercises You Can Do As A Diabetic
Published on September 7, 2022 and last updated for accuracy on October 7, 2022
Exercise is good for everyone but may prove to be useful for diabetics even more. Of course, the benefits of exercise to maintaining good health are already very well documented. Being active helps people feel better, sleep better, perform daily tasks better, and lose weight as well. In fact, weight loss can help control diabetes. Unfortunately, many of us live sedentary lifestyles that are often paired with unhealthy dietary habits.
The American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activities weekly in order for diabetics to have a healthier and better quality of life. Of course, if someone can do more, that’s better! An exercise regimen that includes 5 hours of exercise weekly is highly recommended. (1) (2)
Many diabetics have difficulty maintaining blood sugar levels. When you become more active, you improve your cells’ insulin sensitivity, which increases its effectiveness in lowering your blood glucose levels, thus making blood sugar more stable.
Here are some general tips that apply no matter what kind of exercise you choose to do:
Some tips to improve your walking:
1. Make the best use of technology. Use a GPS tracker, pedometer, your cellphone, or a heart rate monitor.
You can also use your phone and download apps that help you do the same thing. These apps are nice for keeping track of your progress. Some apps even track the calories burned for a duration of exercise for you, that way, this is a great way to keep track of how you’re doing as well as check on your previous performance. It will not be long until you see the tangible results of your exercise.
2. Take it nice and slow.
A lot of people who are just starting out and are impatient to see results may not like it but if you have been out of practice or haven’t exercised in a while, your best bet to have a sustainable improvement over time is to take things slow and allow your body to acclimate to the new routine.
3. Make it a routine.
Allow your body to predict your exercise schedule so that it can adjust accordingly, once you start a habit of walking at a consistent time, your body will make the necessary adjustments to make sure you have enough energy to be able to do that.
4. Avoid having a big meal before and right after you exercise.
Some people may consume a big meal before exercise, this is not a good thing entirely as it may cause you to overeat. Be wary of rewarding yourself after a nice long exercise session as it could cause you to overeat in the same way. Allow your body to recover by drinking a good amount of water to rehydrate and maybe a nice fruit to recharge your energy stores.
5. Bring some water.
Always make sure you are properly hydrated. Most people underestimate the effect of drinking water on fitness and a proper diet. This is a big mistake, not drinking enough water can cause you to overeat because your body is not as satiated and your stomach could be empty. By consistently drinking water, you fill your stomach and satisfy your thirst and satiation queues which could help a lot with overeating but more importantly are very useful whenever you are engaged in physical activity.
Walking is a great start if you are starting from absolutely nothing. It is something that anyone can start off with. There’s no barrier for entry, just two working legs and you’re walking. Start off slowly, if you haven’t been very active for a long time or are worried about your health, walking is a great way to acclimate your body to increasing loads of physical activity.
Light walking is also something that you can easily incorporate into your life. Instead of using a mobility scooter at the supermarket or grocery, you can choose to walk instead. Next time you are to run a quick errand, you might consider taking a car. You can also start engaging in daily walks either early in the morning as a way to start your day, or you can also do it after work, right after you head home. You can take a friend or a loved one with you and walk to and around a park, or maybe just to start with, walking a few times around the block is fine too. If you are planning to go alone, you can listen to an audiobook, podcast, or your favorite album.
Walking is a great way to ease your body into a more consistent exercise routine. If you are out of shape, it’s okay to not walk a great distance when you first start, just getting started with a few steps would be a great improvement. If you are starting from absolutely nothing, walking is easy on the joints and something you can do without any equipment or any initial investment.
Calisthenics has been around for a long time. Though when people talk about calisthenics, they generally refer to stretching, but the term is applied more broadly than that. Body weight training is a form of calisthenics, and technically speaking, exercises like Tai Chi and Yoga are also forms of calisthenics.
Calisthenics exercises are those which use your own body weight and the resistance you can provide in order to strengthen and increase your muscle mass.
However, just because you don’t use heavy weights in calisthenics doesn’t mean it is any less effective as a form of exercise. Many calisthenics practitioners are actually quite strong, its all about being able to put your muscles under tension and support their development.
The great thing about calisthenics is how beginner-friendly it is. It is easy to start as it requires almost no equipment other than your own body in addition to adequate space in order for you to be able to exercise and move freely.
The exercises in calisthenics include the usual pushups, pullups, squats, lunges, burpees, and abdominal crunches, these exercises hit all the major muscle groups and require no equipment to perform. In addition to that, there are variations to each exercise to make them either easier to perform for beginners or those not yet in good physical condition, or variations that can make them challenging for those who are adequately strong enough to perform the basic movements with ease.
You don’t need to push yourself too hard to get started with calisthenics. Start with the basic simple or easier variations like doing pushups against the wall or kneeling push ups. These are great ways to get started and familiarize yourself with the movement until you get strong enough to perform them to completion and later move on with the more advanced movements.
Swimming is one of the best exercises that you can engage in. It is very easy on your joints, so if you have knee or joint pain or are quite on the heavy side, swimming might be a great option for you. There is a reason why a lot of those in physical rehabilitation or recovering from injuries favor swimming as an exercise.
It is a solid cardiovascular workout that is quite fun and helps you keep moving. A study in 2017 found that aquatic exercises like swimming help reduce blood sugar levels in adults with type 2 diabetes. (3)
Riding a stationary bike is great for burning calories and getting your heart pumping. With adjustable resistance, it can also help build strength in the lower body. Depending on the intensity and duration of your workout as well as your current weight you can burn an estimated 421 calories per 30 minutes of cycling.
Cycling is also a great cardiovascular exercise, it helps strengthen your heart and lungs which are essential for good blood circulation. Unlike cycling outdoors, there’s no risk to encounter on the road. It may not give you the same variety in scenery or the feeling of exploring new places, but the health benefits are the same, with the added security and convenience of being able to do it in the safety of your own home, without having to worry about road rage, pebbles on the road or inclement weather.
How about resistance training? Is this something diabetics can do?
Strength training using a resistance band is a great way to exercise. They are easy to use, versatile and effective. Regardless of your fitness level, you may find some use and benefit for resistance bands. They are a great piece of equipment that can replace bulky exercise equipment. All they are rubber bands of carrying thickness and resistance that you can stretch. The force that you take to lift heavy weights is similar to what you would need for resistance bands, but unlike heavyweight, you can easily travel with resistance bands and take them anywhere you want to go.
A study done comparing resistance bands with conventional gym equipment found that when used properly and consistently, they provided similar strength gains. (4)
The great thing about resistance bands is that you can use the lightest resistance to start with and do the same movements, as you get stronger, you can use bands that are thicker and have more resistance to build on that strength. They are very adaptable and as mentioned before, they are portable, in addition to that, they are quite cheap and don’t require much investment compared to the hundreds of dollars that you would have to spend in order to attain the same resistance as conventional weightlifting equipment.
Jumping rope may take you back to your childhood or inspire memories of Rocky Balboa, the boxer while he tries to stay fit and train, but whatever age you are or whatever your current fitness level is, jumping rope is actually a great cardiovascular exercise that can help build stronger muscles and bones as well as improve your balance and coordination. (5)
It is a great way to burn calories as it can burn up to 15-20 calories a minute. An average person can burn up to 200 to 300 calories in a simple 15-minute routine. (6)
Of course, how many calories you burn will depend largely on how fast you perform the exercise, for how long you do the exercise, and how much you weigh.
If you want to start, try to start slow, Jumping Rope is a skill that can be learned. Not everyone jumped rope as a kid but it is never too late to learn. You’ll only need a rope, shoes, and adequate space for equipment.
It’s also quite fun to be able to learn different ways to jump rope, over time you can increase the difficulty by doing it faster or incorporating the many tricks that you can do while jumping rope. While it may seem repetitive to the total beginner, it can actually be quite fun, exciting, and dare I say, Cool to learn the more advanced moves and incorporate them into your workout.
Of course, climbing stairs is something you would need to do especially if you live in a multi-story building. It may not seem much but those steps do add up, you can add a little exercise time by skipping the elevator next time you need to go up or down a level.
Many overweight people would choose the elevator rather than go through multiple flights of stairs. Granted, the number of calories burned for every stair climbed may seem negligible at 17 calories but this accumulates every step and every time you choose the stairs over the elevators.
Other exercise machines which simulate climbing stairs are great for exercising your lower body.
For most people Gardening involves planting, caring for, and harvesting crops or plants. But there is another added benefit to gardening. It provides us with low-intensity exercise and an opportunity to work outside and be exposed to the sun. It is not just a hobby or something you can do to grow your own food. Major muscle groups in your body are used whenever you work to pull out weeds, dig to plant seeds, rake dry leaves and do tasks that would help maintain your garden. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention actually consider gardening as a form of exercise.
It is great for your physical health because it promotes exposure outdoors, and being out in the sun helps our body produce Vitamin D.
Of course, unlike the other forms of exercise listed here, you will have to invest a little more of your time and money because it requires more equipment. However, it is a great way to combine learning a new and useful hobby and skill with your exercise and literally be hitting two birds with one stone. (7)
Tai Chi was originally a martial art developed for self-defense but now, most of the practitioners that you see in parks doing Tai Chi may be doing it not for self-defense but for self-improvement. Others describe Tai chi as meditation in motion, and unlike other martial arts, tai chi promotes gentle flowing and slow movements. Even though there are many different styles, Generally, Tai Chi is a self-paced system of gentle movements and stretching that flows from one posture to another with a focus on breathing as well as meditation.
Since most Tai Chi classes are done outdoors, in public parks where there’s fresh air, Tai Chi helps with your cardiovascular health as well.
It is recommended for diabetics because it is a low-impact exercise and does not put a lot of stress on your muscles and joints. You may observe that many Tai Chi practitioners are actually the elderly.
Like many of the exercises on this list, you don’t need much by way of special equipment. There’s little to no barrier to entry, if you are looking for a positive approach to improving your physical and mental health, Tai Chi may be the exercise for you. Try it if you want to improve your mode, aerobic capacity, energy, stamina, and balance, as well as the quality of your sleep and blood pressure.
There are so many forms and styles of Yoga these days, it has skyrocketed into popularity because of the many health benefits it brings. It helps with your balance, as well as muscle and bone strength. There are many poses to learn and that is one big significant part of yoga but another part of it is the meditation, breath work, and contemplative aspect, which could be useful not just for your physical health but also for your mental health.
Unfortunately, if you want to learn yoga, you need to get help from an instructor or a practitioner or learn via Instructional videos either only or through DVDs. Regardless of how you learn it, the benefits are quite significant. You don’t have to start with the most difficult poses to gain the benefits of yoga practice either, even the lowest intensity poses help with flexibility. (8) Others have found that yoga has been shown to help with inflammation based on studies of adults with chronic inflammatory-related disorders. (9)
Yogic Breathing is also an important and beneficial aspect of yoga that can be useful for diabetics as it helps with cardiovascular health and has evidenced several favorable changes in heart rate and contractility of the heart. (10)
You may also start with a gentle exercise or free weights exercises. If you have any risks factors like high blood pressure or heart disease, weight lifting may not be for you. It is best though to seek medical advice before starting any regular exercise.