Did you know that physical activity directly impacts the management of type 2 diabetes? Let’s explore how physical activity can lower blood glucose levels, and increase overall health!
Why is physical activity so important?
When you are active, your body becomes more sensitive to insulin. As this happens, the cells in your muscles are able to uptake glucose (fuel source for all cells) more efficiently by using available insulin. This can impact glucose levels during activity, immediately following activity and even into the following day!
Picture activity working to “wake up your cells." The cells become “supercharged” and attract insulin.
Because the cells are alert and active, they effortlessly pull glucose from the bloodstream, resulting in lower glucose levels.
Physical activity can also decrease fat stores, and promote weight maintenance. As body fat decreases, less fat accumulates in the liver and pancreas, enabling these organs to work more efficiently to improve blood glucose levels.
Unfortunately, having diabetes puts a person at higher risk for cardiovascular disease. Physical activity plays an important role in heart health by helping manage blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels.
- Improves mental health & mood – Those with diabetes are at higher risk for depression or diabetes distress. Simply going for a walk each day can help reduce gloomy thoughts and improve the mental load of living with diabetes.
- Improves sleep – Improved sleep leads to improved blood glucose control.
- Improves memory and the ability to think more clearly
All movement is positive!
Tips on getting moderate-intensity activity
- Aim for 150 minutes per week. Spread it out over at least 3 days with no more than 2 days rest
- Break it up – If you don’t have 20-30 consecutive minutes, break it into 10-minute time-frames
- Schedule it – Don’t just wait until you have the time ... consistency is key
- Take advantage of every opportunity to move – consider volunteering to take out the trash or get deliveries from the mailbox
- Avoid sitting for long periods of time – Get up and move every 30-60 minutes. This can be as simple as walking up and down the hall at work, moving around the house, or going up and down the stairs. Research shows that breaking up long bouts of sitting with active movement makes glucose levels easier to manage.
Always remember - Safety first
- Be sure the activity you are about to do is right for you. If you have concerns, talk to your health care provider.
- Start where you are and work up. It is important to continue to increase and progress but always listen to your body.
If you use insulin or secretagogues (medications that stimulate beta cells to produce insulin) be especially cautious during activity. These medications increase insulin sensitivity and can quickly lower blood sugars.
- Be aware of how physical activity impacts your blood sugar and do your best to prevent lows. With a CGM, watch your blood sugar trends and have low alerts set at an appropriate number for you.
- Always carry glucose tabs or some type of fast-acting sugar wherever you go.
If you have type 2 diabetes, physical activity is a great way to help with your diabetes management. Being active on a regular basis has so many benefits. Need help finding ways to include enjoyable activity in to your life? Reach out to your Diabetes Care Team, we'd love to help you get creative!
©Gary Scheiner MS, CDCES – Integrated Diabetes Services. May be reproduced and used for patient education, but not sold.