A new diagnosis of type 2 diabetes can be intimidating. With new medications, possible insulin, and diet change recommendations, it can feel overwhelming. Your physician will also suggest an exercise regimen and if you are not already physically active, this can be one of the most challenging steps to take.
There are many health benefits to an exercise routine. Blood sugar levels respond better to medication and insulin when you are physically active. Exercise helps release endorphins, which lead to improved mood. Weight loss and muscle gain are also great reasons to make the time every week for physical activity.
Moderate vs vigorous exercise
Let’s break down the exercise component to the type 2 diabetes lifestyle. Doctors recommend 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week. So how is exercise measured? During moderate exercise, you breathe faster but can still carry on a conversation. Your heart rate also speeds up. Vigorous exercise, on the other hand, leads to shortness of breath that makes it impossible to carry on a conversation, as well as a quickened heart rate. You will also notice perspiration quickly after beginning. If you are unsure whether or not your physical activity is intense enough, or if it is safe for you to exercise, talk with your physician.
Examples of moderate exercise:
- Brisk walking
- Low speed biking
- Lawn mowing
Examples of vigorous exercise:
- Intense gardening
- Lap swimming
- Fast biking
Once you have adjusted to your new workout schedule, you can also add in some strength training. When using free weights or your own body weight such as in rock-climbing, you are gaining muscle. This is important for type 2 diabetes because muscles use a lot of insulin. So the more you use your muscles, the better you will be able to control blood glucose levels.
Importance of pre-workout nutrition
Fueling for exercise is extremely important. People with diabetes are at high risk for exercise-induced hypoglycemia. This means that physical activity can lead to a drop in blood sugar. To avoid this, you should eat 10-20 grams of carbohydrate for every 30 minutes of moderate exercise. If lengths are longer, exercise is more intense, or you are having symptoms of low blood sugar, you may also need an extra snack during or after the workout.
Examples of good pre-workout snacks:
- One small granola bar
- One small apple
- ¾ cup yogurt
Each serving will provide approximately 15 grams of carbohydrate. These are all great options as they either contain whole grains, fiber or protein, which help to slow the absorption of sugar thus decreasing your risk of low blood sugar.
Points to Remember:
- Aim to get in 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week
- Try some strength training to build muscle
- Fuel up with a 10-20 gram carbohydrate snack before 30 minutes of moderate exercise and adjust as needed.