The Natural Way to Help Your Blood Sugar 

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? Physical activity!   

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 week.   

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 blood pressure)
  ›       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
  ›       Feel good!   


What and How Much is Best, Exactly? 
1.      Light 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.

-AND-

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 doctor’s ok.   

Need Inspiration? Here are some ideas to find ways to be more physically active. 
  ·         Walk whenever possible
  ·         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 group
  ·         March in place while waiting for (fill in the blank: the microwave, the pot to boil, while on hold)
  ·         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 class
  ·         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.     


1.      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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