”23.6 million children and adults in the USA have diabetes” (2007 National Diabetes Fact Sheet http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/diabetes-statistics). And, according to the American Diabetes Association, the number of Americans with diabetes is expected to increase to more than 30 million by 2030 (http://www.acefitness.org/fitfacts/fitfacts_display.aspx?itemid=29). These are alarming numbers and a major sign that we really must take better care of ourselves!

If you have Type 2 diabetes (non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus) diet and exercise play a crucial role in your treatment plan. Cardiovascular activity promotes weight loss, improves insulin sensitivity, strengthens the heart, lowers blood pressure, increases HDL (good cholesterol), and increases glucose tolerance. The most powerful benefit of exercise is that it decreases insulin resistance (reduces the glucose in your blood) and is a highly recommended course of action for diabetics and those who may be at risk for diabetes. “For every 10 pounds of weight an individual loses, they will experience a 20 percent improvement in insulin sensitivity” (http://www.acefitness.org/fitfacts/fitfacts_display.aspx?itemid=29). Some people can manage their diabetes through diet and exercise alone, either stabilizing or reversing the disease. Those with Type 1 (insulin dependent diabetes mellitus – an autoimmune disease) usually rely on daily injections of insulin to manage blood sugar levels.

Hypoglycemia (a sudden drop in blood sugar levels) is a major concern for a diabetic. This can happen with excessive exercise or inadequate diet. Signs of hypoglycemia are extreme fatigue, lightheadedness, shakiness, nausea, profuse sweating, headache, seeing spots, confusion, sudden rapid heart rate, fainting and seizures. If it’s not managed correctly, a hypoglycemic reaction can lead to insulin shock, which is potentially life-threatening. Here are some precautions and recommendations for getting the most out of your workout if you have diabetes.

1. Get medical clearance before starting an exercise program. Make sure that your insulin dosage is appropriate for physical activity. Discuss which types of exercise are best for you. If you are an avid exerciser and plan on doing more intense or prolonged workouts, discuss this in greater detail with your doctor.
2. Do not exercise the injection site muscle group for one hour after injection.
3. Make sure you are not working-out at the peak effect time of insulin action.
4. Avoid physical activity on days when your blood sugar is greater than 250 mg/dL with positive ketones (acid remaining when the body burns its own fat) or with blood sugar levels greater than 300 mg/dL and no ketones. Don’t exercise if your blood sugar is less than 100 mg/dL.
5. Unless directed otherwise by your doctor, adults should perform cardiovascular activity for at least 30-minutes most days of the week and strength train 2-4 days a week. 60 minutes most days of the week is recommended for children and teens. Make sure stretching is incorporated into your routine.
6. Eat healthy carbohydrates before exercise and stay well hydrated. If you’re participating in long bouts of cardio bring carbs for snacks. Also, keep sugar or glucose tablets available if a hypoglycemic reaction should occur.
7. Stay faithful to monitoring your blood sugar levels regularly (especially if you are new to working-out).
8. Exercise, eat, and take your medications at the same time of day.
9. Take good care of your feet. Diabetics can suffer from reduced sensation in the feet (neuropathy) and/or poor circulation in the feet. Therefore, sores, blisters, and cuts may become more easily infected. Wear proper fitting supportive shoes and examine your feet regularly.
10. Wear a medical identification bracelet or make fitness instructors aware that you have diabetes.
11. Stay educated and informed through The American Diabetes Association http://www.diabetes.org.
12. If you need help, enlist the assistance of a diabetes counselor.
13. Smile and have fun! Take pride in the fact that you are improving your health!

Whether you’ve had diabetes for years, you just learned you have it, or you’re interested in prevention, you can’t go wrong with eating healthy and exercising regularly. Listen to your body and take good care of yourself. Start making positive changes toward a healthier you today!

Author's Bio: 

Wendy Stoll is a certified personal trainer with over 19 years of experience specializing in exercise program design for women. She travels to your home/office to make exercise as convenient as possible. Wendy can be reached at (517) 327-1992, wstoll@comcast.net, www.wendystoll.com.