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Diabetes and exercise

Exercise Will Help Your Diabetes

Exercise is as important as medicine for managing your diabetes. It can help you lose weight, if you are overweight. It also helps prevent weight gain.

Exercise helps lower your blood sugar without medicines. It reduces your risk for heart disease and stress.

Be patient. It may take several months after you start exercising before you see changes in your health.

See also: Managing your blood sugar

Talk to Your Doctor First

Your health care provider should make sure your exercise program is safe for you.

Call your doctor if you feel faint, have chest pain, or feel short of breath when you exercise.

Call your doctor if your feet feel numb or painful. Also call if you have sores or blisters on your feet.

Make sure you call your doctor if your blood sugar gets too low or too high during the day.

If you take medicines that lower your blood sugar, exercise can make your blood sugar go too low. Talk to your doctor or nurse about how to take your medicines when you exercise.

Some types of exercise can make your eyes worse if you already have diabetic eye disease. Get an eye exam before starting an exercise program. This can make sure your exercise program will be safe for you.

See also: Diabetes - eye care

Getting Started

Start slowly with walking. If you are out of shape, walk for 5 - 10 minutes.

Try to set a goal of fast walking. You should do this for 30 - 45 minutes at least 5 days a week. Do more if you can. Swimming or exercise classes are also good.

Wear a bracelet or necklace that says you have diabetes. Tell coaches and exercise partners that you have diabetes. Always have fast-acting carbs with you. Carry emergency phone numbers with you.

Drink plenty of water. Do this before, during, and after exercising. Try to exercise at the same time of day, for the same amount of time, and at the same level. This will make your blood sugars easier to control.

Your Blood Sugar and Exercise

When you exercise, check your blood sugar before exercise. Also check it during exercise, if you are exercising for longer than 45 minutes.

Finally, make sure to check it right after exercise, and later on. Exercise can make your blood sugar drop up to 12 hours after you are done.

If you use insulin, ask your doctor when you should eat before you exercise. Also find out how to adjust your dose when you exercise.

Do NOT inject insulin in a part of your body that you are exercising.

Keep a snack nearby that can raise your blood sugar quickly. Examples are:

  • 5 or 6 small hard candies
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, plain or dissolved in water
  • 1 tablespoon honey or syrup
  • 3 or 4 glucose tablets
  • 1/2 can regular, non-diet soda
  • 1/2 cup fruit juice

Have a larger snack if you will be exercising more than usual. You can also have more frequent snacks. You may need to adjust your medicine if you are planning unusual exercise.

If exercise causes a lot of low blood sugars, talk with your doctor. You may need to lower the dose of your medicine.

Your Feet and Exercise

You might not feel pain in your feet because of your diabetes. You may not notice a sore or blister on your foot. Call your doctor for any changes on your feet. Small problems can become serious if they go untreated.

Always check your feet for any problems before and after exercise.

When you exercise wear socks that keep moisture away from your feet. Also wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes.

See also: Diabetes - taking care of your feet

References

American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes -- 2010. Diabetes Care. 2010 Jan;33 Suppl 1:S11-61.

Inzucchi SE, Sherwin RS. Type 2 diabetes mellitus. In: Goldman L and Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Saunders; 2007: chap 248.

In the clinic. Type 2 diabetes. Ann Intern Med. 2010 Mar 2;152(5):ITC1-16.


Review Date: 6/16/2011
Reviewed By: A.D.A.M. Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, and David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine (10/6/2010).
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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