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Exercise is key to controlling your blood sugar and staying healthy if you have diabetes. Before you start an exercise program, though, check with your doctor to find out what kind of exercise program is safe for you. Ask about any precautions you should take to make sure your blood sugar doesn't get too low during or after exercise.
The ultimate goal is 30 to 45 minutes of exercise, such as brisk walking, at least 5 days a week. If you are out of shape, you'll want to work up to this over several weeks, starting with as little as 5 or 10 minutes and increasing the amount of time you exercise each day. It's fine to exercise for more than 45 minutes at a time, but if you do, make sure you check your blood sugar level after 45 minutes to make sure it hasn't gotten too low.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest how much activity Americans should do. Keep in mind they are goals, not the place to start:
- People with prediabetes, diabetes, or the general adult public should aim for a minimum of 30 minutes most days. Walking, gardening, doing yard work, swimming, or cleaning house will all work to meet this goal -- anything that increases your heart rate and causes you to break a light sweat.
- Children and teens should aim for at least 60 minutes most days.
In addition, the Diabetes Prevention Program -- a large study done in people with prediabetes -- showed that 150 minutes of physical activity a week (30 minutes, five times a week) helped prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.
Ideally, people with diabetes should get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (for example, brisk walking) to help improve blood sugar control, maintain weight and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
You can get more bang for your buck by exercising four or more hours a week at a moderate- to high-intensity level, such as brisk walking or biking. To lose weight and keep it off, aim for about seven hours a week of vigorous exercise. You should also perform some type of resistance exercise like lifting weights three times a week, targeting all major muscle groups.
How much you should exercise depends on your goals and your health. Everyone should exercise some. Even 20 minutes per day will lower your blood sugar for 24 hours. Two ten minute walks is as effective as one 20 minute walk. Exercise is good for the body, good for the soul, good for the blood sugar, but not actually that good for losing weight.
This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.