The Natural Way to Help Your Blood Sugar By Prem Sahasranam MD and Theresa Garnero, APRN, BC-ADM, MSN, CDCES
Are you one of the 23% who are taking advantage of one of
the best ways to help your blood sugar?
It just happens be one of the best ways to also help manage
weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, mood, and sleep – and it doesn’t involve medication. Have you guessed what it is?
Yet, 77% of Americans are not getting the recommended amount
of exercise, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control.1
The federal physical activity
guidelines recommend that each week adults do:
· At least 150 minutes exercise at a moderate pace
(where your heart rate goes up to the point where you can talk but not sing),
OR 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, and
Muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a
Benefits of Getting
Regular, Intentional Physical Activity Specifically related to diabetes, exercise causes your
muscles to use blood sugar for energy. It helps to lower your glucose for about
a day. That’s why it’s important to be consistent as it has a balancing effect
on blood sugars.
Looking at this laundry list of benefits, which ones are
important to you?
Improve blood sugar control
Increased insulin sensitivity
Weight loss and maintenance
Increase energy levels
Reduce cardiovascular risk factors (stroke, high
Better mental health (less anxiety, depression)
Better brain health and memory
Better bone health
May prevent or delay type 2 diabetes and many
types of cancer
What and How Much is
Best, Exactly? 1.
activities. These are daily activities that don’t increase your
heart beat (pulse) or breathing. It all counts, but the payoff is with putting
in more effort. Keep reading!
2. a) Moderate
activities. These increase your pulse and breathing but you can still talk
comfortably while doing it (like walking, bicycling on flat surfaces, or
leisure swimming). You want to reach 150 minutes per week. Best to get
there by doing 30 minutes, 5 days per week, but it may be broken up into 10
minutes segments. Your goal is to total 2 hours and 30 minutes per week. Yes,
you can do the “weekend warrior” and do it all in a weekend but to have the
best impact, spread it out more evenly across the week.
-OR- b) Vigorous activities. These cause
rapid pulse and breathing (like walking very
briskly, jogging, dancing – think Zumba, bicycling on hills, basketball,
soccer, volleyball, swimming laps, or shoveling). If you do vigorous
activities, you can get away with doing less! That’s 20-25 minutes, 3 days
per week. If you did the math, that’s only a little over 1 hour of your
time out of the 168 hours you have in a week. Not too bad!
Note: If you had a hard workout, you
might see your blood sugar go up immediately after you stop, but then you can
expect it to go down afterwards. If you’re on insulin, keep an eye out for
possible lows 3-4 hours after you stop exercising.
3. Strength (or
resistance) training. Every other day, do 8-10 exercises with 8-10
repetitions with major muscle groups. This includes exercises with free
weights, weight machines (like those found in the gym), using your body weight
(like by doing wall push-ups or leg squats), or elastic bands.
Caution: before you lift weights or do
resistance training, if you have heart, eye, kidney or nerve problems, get your
Here are some ideas to find ways to be more physically
Take the stairs
Walk when you’re
talking on the phone
Buddy up and get
a friend or family to join in ·
Plan for it (set
out workout clothes the night before and go to bed early enough)
Get inspired by
some YouTube exercise videos
Join a walking
March in place
while waiting for (fill in the blank: the microwave, the pot to boil, while on
Use hand weights
or resistance bands while watching TV
If you work in an
office, use the furthest copier or bathroom
Put together your
favorite dance or exercise music
Take an exercise
Get out for a
hike (check out local opportunities – like parks you’ve never been to)
Join a Meetup
group to go out on regular outings
Use this as an
excuse to go get new walking shoes
Try to find ways
to incorporate being more physically active while you’re already doing things
and set aside dedicated time to put in a little more effort. Our bodies were
meant to move and they function better when they are regularly active. And
without a doubt, it will help you on your quest to live a healthy life with diabetes.
Blackwell DL, Clarke TC. State
variation in meeting the 2008 federal guidelines for both aerobic and
muscle-strengthening activities through leisure-time physical activity among
adults aged 18–64: United States, 2010–2015. In: National Health Statistics
Reports; no 112. Hyattsville: National Center for Health Statistics; 2018.
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