6 Tips to Get Started with Exercise
1. Get the go-ahead from your healthcare provider. Talk to your primary care physician or endocrinologist before beginning a workout program. This will help you ensure that you are choosing a form of exercise that is best suited for any coexisting health conditions that you may have, such as heart disease or diabetic neuropathy.
2. Make a plan to ensure your blood sugar stays in a healthy range. “Exercise must be carefully planned with intake of food and insulin to prevent hyper- or hypoglycemia.” Again, talking to your medical provider can be important, as is testing your blood sugar before and after exercise. When first getting started with exercise, you may also need to test during your workout. Continuous glucose monitors can be helpful for exercisers.
3. If you are new to exercise, take baby steps. “If 150 minutes per week seems like a lot, start with a goal of 45 minutes of exercise for the week, then 60, then 75, and continue until you hit and maintain the goal of 150 minutes.” In addition to being one of the best ways to stay motivated to exercise when you have diabetes, this gradual approach to exercise will reduce the risk of exercise aches, pains, and injury.
4. Think outside of structured workouts when considering movement. Dedicated workouts are great, but including everyday activity and physical recreation is equally, if not more, important. That is because NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis), which encompasses all of the energy, or calories, that you burn outside of your workouts, often accounts for more than what you might burn during structured exercise. Performing everyday physical activities like walking while doing your errands, taking out the trash, and cleaning the house also helps maintain functional strength and mobility.
5. Start with low-impact exercise, especially if you have nerve damage. Stationary cycling, weight-bearing strength training, swimming, and other low- to no-impact workouts are gentle ways to ease into exercise. They are especially beneficial for people exercising with diabetic neuropathy. “Those with diabetic peripheral neuropathy, associated nerve damage, and loss of sensation in the feet are at an increased risk of skin breakdown and ulceration.”
6. Focus on large muscle groups for maximum benefits. When it comes to resistance training, multi-joint exercises such as squats, lunges, rows, and chest presses come with the greatest per-rep benefits for both blood sugar management and the progression of related complications.