If you spent the winter and even much of the spring hibernating from fitness activities, now is the perfect time to get moving again. An active lifestyle can benefit your health and your well-being, too. “Exercise helps you manage your blood sugar, achieve a healthy weight and improve your mood. Physical activity can be as powerful as glucose lowering medication, with fewer side effects,” says Joanne Lewis, Diabetes Canada’s healthcare provider education & engagement executive director. She adds, “Just get started. Celebrate any amount of activity that you do, and then gradually work up to doing more.”
This workout is appropriate for all ages and fitness levels. It requires no special equipment and can be done just about anywhere.
The tune-up includes aerobic and resistance exercises—the best type of activity for people with diabetes. As the seasons change, keep your motivation level high by swapping this program for something new, like swimming, dancing or cycling.
For best results, complete all four exercises and then repeat them. Challenge yourself to do this program three to five times a week. If you’re not currently active or want more help to learn how to do these exercises, speak with your doctor or diabetes educator before starting this or any fitness program. You can also watch our easy-to-follow video.
Regular exercise also has special advantages if you have type 2 diabetes. Regular physical activity can improve your body’s sensitivity to insulin and helps manage your blood glucose (sugar) levels.
1. Seated leg extensions
Sit in a chair with your torso off the backrest and your feet hip-width apart. Slowly straighten one leg until it is parallel to the floor. Hold for two seconds, and return it to the starting position. Do this continuously for 30 seconds, then repeat with the other leg.
2. Wall push-ups
Stand 12 to 18 inches from a wall. Lean forward with a straight-body position, and place your hands flat on the wall at shoulder height. Feel your heels lift slightly as you bend your elbows, bringing your face close to the wall. Push back to the starting position. Try five to 15 repetitions.
Wearing comfortable and supportive shoes, walk at a comfortable pace, swinging or pumping your arms at your sides. Start by walking for as little as five to 10 minutes, and gradually increase the time.
4. Back thigh and calf stretch
Place the heel of one foot on a step or chair. Bend forward, keeping your back and outstretched leg straight, and bending the knee of your other leg. Bring the toes of your straight leg toward you slightly to add a calf stretch. Hold for one minute (remember to keep breathing through the stretch), and repeat for a total of two times on each side.
How much exercise is enough?
What’s as powerful as glucose-lowering medication (with fewer side effects), and can also reduce your risk for heart attack and stroke? You guessed it: regular physical activity. Diabetes Canada recommends you challenge yourself to complete at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous- intensity aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking, swimming, or dancing) each week. If you are able and when you are ready, try adding resistance exercises, like lifting weights, three times a week.
Getting active worked for me!
“Fourteen years ago my doctor told me I would need to take insulin to control my type 2 diabetes if I didn’t get serious about exercise. I joined a fitness class that includes a warm-up, stretching, muscle toning, walking to music, and blood pressure and blood sugar checks. When I started, my blood sugar readings were sometimes as high as 16. Now that I’m exercising regularly and have modified my eating habits, they’re almost always five or six. I make every effort to go three times a week because people in the group notice when you don’t show up!” — Walter Hayde, Mississauga, Ont.
“Over the 42 years that I have had diabetes, I’ve found that daily physical activity, along with the right food choices and testing four times a day, is a must for good diabetic control. I play table tennis and go square dancing each week, and attend a variety of group workouts two or three times per week. I also enjoy walking short distances several times a week. I always choose activities where I can slow down or speed up as I desire. My motto is, ‘Variety is the spice of life! ’ ” — Les Quilter, Victoria, B.C.
Did you know?
This September, Diabetes Canada is encouraging Canadians to Lace up to End Diabetes through a virtual fundraiser where participants choose their activity (walk, run, ride, dance, etc.) and set their pace. Every distance and dollar helps fund education, support services, advocacy, and diabetes research that can lead to the next big medical breakthrough. Challenge yourself or rally a team to #LaceUpYourWay and raise funds to help bring us one step closer to a cure. Visit Lace Up to End Diabetes for details.
This revised article originally appeared in Diabetes Dialogue, Spring 2013.
Author: Barb Gormley
Category Tags: Healthy Living;
Sign up & stay connected
Want to know what's happening in our diabetes community? Sign up for our national newsletter and stay up to date with all the latest news, resources, events, and more.
Tools & resources
Take charge of your health with tools and resources from Diabetes Canada.Get started About Tools & resources
Benefits of physical activity
Increasing your activity level can lower your blood sugar within an hour.Find out more About Benefits of physical activity
Informative and inspirational stories from people affected by diabetes.Read now About Stories