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(A-Z listing includes diseases, conditions, tests and procedures)

Physical Activity and Exercise

A brisk walk a day can help keep the doctor away

Did you know that just 30 minutes of exercise a day can help treat high levels of glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol; improve your mood; and increase your energy?

Many people think they must carve out a major portion of their daily schedule to make room for a vigorous, time-intensive exercise regimen. But the reality is that a simple combination of aerobic activity and weight training just three days a week can improve how you feel, inside and out. Workout routines need not be elaborate or time-intensive; three short, 10-minute intervals spread throughout the day can start you off on the right foot.

Exercise makes a difference!

  • Improves blood glucose control, blood pressure and cholesterol.

  • Improves mood and reduces risk of depression.

  • Trims the waistline and reduces body fat.

  • Lowers risk of heart disease.

Good to Know

People who have never exercised regularly should talk to their doctor before starting an exercise program. People who are at especially high risk for heart complications or with a previous history might need a stress test before beginning an exercise regimen.

Exercise lowers blood glucose. If you have insulin-treated diabetes, ask your doctor if your dose of insulin should be decreased on the days that you exercise.

Start slowly and work your way up

The first rule of the game is to set achievable goals. Begin by exercising three days a week. Once you notice the effects of physical activity on your health and appearance, you’ll likely be motivated to increase the intensity of your exercise regimen. Until then, don’t sweat it!

  • Always warm up with a few minutes of muscle stretching, followed by five to 10 minutes of mild aerobic activity, such as brisk walking.

  • People with type 2 diabetes benefit most from a combination of aerobic exercise, which raises the heart rate through upbeat, rhythmic movement and resistance training, such as lifting weights or using the weight machines at the gym.

  • Avoid doing the same activity two days in a row. Three days a week, try 20 minutes of a moderate- or high-intensity aerobic workout, such as jogging, bicycling or swimming. On your two “off” days, try 30 minutes of lifting weights.

  • If 30-minute workouts are too intense or you have trouble making time for them, try scattering three 10-minute sessions throughout the day. You might find it much easier to follow through with your fitness goals.

  • Invite a friend, join a class or work with a personal trainer. People who have strong social support are more likely than others to stick to their routines.

Be Alert!

  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after exercise.

  • Check your blood glucose before and after exercise to become familiar with your body's response to various types of activity. Your blood glucose might respond differently to lifting weights than it would to a pickup basketball game, for example. Changes in blood glucose will sometimes appear as long as 12 hours after exercise.

  • Working out causes your body to burn blood glucose. For that reason, people with diabetes should eat a small snack before and after exercise. Always keep a sweet snack on hand in case your blood glucose drops below 100 mg/dl.

  • Check your feet daily for blisters or other signs of damage. Discuss injuries with your doctor as soon as you notice them.

  • Watch for symptoms of heart disease, which may include lightheadedness, shortness of breath and chest pain.

  • Stop exercising if you feel lightheaded, dizzy or have other signs of low blood glucose.

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