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Adding physical activity to your day—even just a small amount—is one of the most empowering steps you can take to help lower your blood sugar (glucose) and control your diabetes. And you do not have to buy a pricey gym membership or put in a lot of time to see the benefits; you can easily add exercise to your daily routine.

People with prediabetes, type 1 diabetes, or type 2 diabetes can see amazing results once they get active

says Sarah Lord, health and wellness coordinator at Jean Coutu Pharmacy in Riverview, N.B., and co-chair of the Diabetes Canada Professional Section, Southeast New Brunswick Chapter. “People with diabetes in my exercise programs often see improvements in their balance, mobility, blood pressure, and blood glucose and A1C readings. Many of them are motivated to keep exercising to avoid starting medication or to reduce their current dose.”

A simple exercise routine

Ready to get started? Try this simple 20-minute (or less) activity routine that can be done at home or at work. Do the exercises together in one session or throughout the day, depending on your time.

1 Walking (helps muscles absorb blood sugar and helps manage weight): The simple act of walking is one of the best exercises you can do. Work walking into your daily routine by doing errands or taking a lunchtime stroll. Start with five to 10 minutes, and add one to two minutes each week. Increasing your pace (the speed at which you walk) is also beneficial.

2 Sit to stand (strengthens legs): Sit at the front edge of a chair (one with a firm seat) with your feet flat on the floor and hip-width apart. Extend your arms forward parallel to the floor. Keeping your chest lifted, shift your weight forward and stand up. Still keeping your chest lifted, bend your knees and reach your hips back to return to the chair. Repeat eight to 12 times.

3 Bicep curls (strengthens the front of your arms): Stand with a light hand-held weight (or soup can) in each hand. Keep your arms by your sides, with your palms facing forward and your shoulders relaxed. With your upper arms at your sides, lift the weights toward your shoulders. Pause, and lower the weights to the start position. Repeat eight to 12 times.

4 Knee lifts (strengthens your abdominals): Sit in a chair, with both feet flat on the floor and hip-width apart. Tighten your abdominals and lift one knee so that it is a few inches higher than the opposite knee. Pause, and then return to the start position. Repeat with the other leg. Repeat eight to 12 times.

Tips for success

• Avoid any exercise that causes pain or that makes any current injuries worse (for example, a sore hip or shoulder).

• Repeat each exercise eight to 12 times twice a week. Gradually work up to three sets of each exercise three times per week.

• Keep each exercise movement slow and controlled; take three seconds for the up phase and three seconds for the down phase.

• Pace yourself so you feel energized, not exhausted, when you are finished.

• Get help from a diabetes health-care provider, a qualified exercise professional, or a trusted resource if you are unsure of how to perform any exercise and to avoid injury.

Did you know?

Think safety first. If you take insulin or medications that increase insulin levels, track your blood sugar before, during, and many hours after your activity to see how it affects your blood sugar levels. If you are not sure how to get started or have concerns about exercising with diabetes, visit Physical Activity and Diabetes.

Do you have a story about the difference physical activity has made for you and your health? Please let us know at

(This article appeared in Diabetes Dialogue, Winter 2020)

Author: Barb Gormley

Category Tags: Healthy Living;

Region: National

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