We have all heard that exercise is good for your health! So, what is the difference between physical activity and exercise? Physical activity is defined as any movement that is carried out by the muscles that require energy.
Exercise is a physical activity that is planned, structured, repetitive and intentional. You will often times hear the words used interchangeably. Exercise has many benefits: helping you control your weight and blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of heart disease, improving your mental health, mood and brain function, strengthening your bones and muscles, reducing the risk of falls. Learn more about The Benefits of Exercise from MedlinePlus.
How long should I excerise?
When someone living with diabetes begins an exercise program or changes their program, it is good to be mindful of safety. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) and American Heart Association (AHA) recommend aiming for 150 minutes a week (30 minutes, 5 days a week) of physical activity.
Sometimes people are not ready to tackle the entire 150 minutes. However, even 10 minute bursts a few times a day help you to meet the goal. During the winter months, it is safer to walk in the house. Many people walk during the commercial breaks of a 1 hour television program. Do you know how much walking that is? Twenty minutes – try it out!
How does exercise affect my blood sugar?
Exercise lowers blood sugar by improving the way cells uptake and use insulin and glucose (sugar). It is extremely important that you know how exercise affects your blood sugar and that you are prepared to treat hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Always carry your meter and hypoglycemia treatment with you.
- In general, hypoglycemia is defined as blood sugar less than 70 mg/dl.
- Symptoms may include: feeling dizzy, shaky, hungry, sweaty, weak, anxious or confused.
- You should STOP what you are doing and check a blood sugar, if safely possible.
- Treat with 15 grams of quick-acting carbohydrate and wait 15 minutes. This may include 4 glucose tablets, ½ cup of fruit juice or ½ can of regular soda pop (not diet).
- Wait 15 minutes and recheck the blood sugar. If the reading is still below 70, treat again with quick-acting carbohydrate as instructed above.
- If the blood sugar is above 70 mg/dl, eat a protein / carb snack like a package of peanut butter or cheese crackers or ½ sandwich.
- If the blood sugar does not rise above 70 mg/dl or the symptoms don’t go away, call your doctor or go to the nearest emergency room. Please do not drive a car with hypoglycemia.
- Be sure to make a note of how exercise affected your blood sugar and let your doctor know.
Also, if your blood sugar is above 250 mg/dl, do not exercise until checking with your doctor or diabetes educator.
How to prevent injuries while exercising
Preventing injuries is a key strategy in staying active. Here are some tips to keep you safe while you exercise:
- Wear socks and comfortable shoes
- Be sure to warm up (start slowly) and cool down (end slowly) for five minutes
- Drink plenty of water before and during your exercise session
- Stretch during and after your activity to prevent sore muscles
- Wear your medical identification and carry a cell phone just in case you need help
Learn more safety tips from the American Diabetes Association.
To learn more about these topics and living successfully with diabetes, we encourage you to talk to your doctor about referring you to a diabetes educator or enrolling in the Diabetes Education Program at NMC Health.