The benefits of regular exercise are undeniable. Physical activity improves overall health, helps protect against heart disease, and fights depression. It can increase your energy level and help you lose or maintain weight.
You’ll hear the terms “physical activity” and “exercise” throughout this chapter. You may wonder about the difference between these two expressions.
“Physical activity” refers to any activity that gets you moving and helps you burn energy. It could include the time you spend walking from your car to the office, climbing a flight of stairs, or raking leaves in the yard. “Exercise” generally refers to a specific, planned physical activity such as swimming, biking, or running. Both physical activity and exercise are wonderful ways to get in shape and stay healthy.
Aerobic exercise—the kind that makes you breathe harder—gives your heart and lungs a good workout. It makes your heart pump harder and gets the blood flowing through even your smallest blood vessels. This is important for anyone, especially for people with diabetes, who are at greater risk for heart disease. Physical activity can decrease bad cholesterol and increase good HDL cholesterol.
Physical activity also clears glucose from your blood, which is a real benefit for people with diabetes. It seems to make muscles and other tissues more sensitive to insulin, so less insulin is needed to move glucose out of the blood and into muscle cells. People with diabetes who use insulin may need to use less insulin or eat more on the days they work out. People with type 2 diabetes who exercise regularly may be able to manage their blood glucose without insulin or diabetes pills or they may just take less medication.
Benefits of Physical Activity and Exercise
- It improves blood flow, muscle tone, and flexibility
- It can help prevent heart disease and other health problems
- Decreases bad cholesterol and increases good HDL cholesterol
- Improves mild to moderate high blood pressure
- It can help you look and feel better
- Physical activity can help you handle stress
- It can help improve your quality of sleep