Have diabetes? Even light exercise can help lower your A1C.

Jun 15, 2021

Here are seven tips to help you get started – safely – with a workout routine

Have diabetes or high blood pressure or maybe even both? One treatment option that research has shown to help control or even lower your numbers is exercise.

Even more good news: It doesn’t have to be too rigorous. Studies show that walking just three minutes throughout the day or simple resistance exercises, such as half-squats or knee raises, makes a difference in your health. Elizabeth Clements

“Physical activity increases your body’s sensitivity to insulin,” explains Elizabeth Clements, PharmD, clinical pharmacy specialist who sees patients at St. Joseph’s/Candler Primary Care located in Bluffton.  “Insulin is what allows your body to use blood sugar for energy, which in turn helps manage your diabetes.”

Not to mention, Clements adds, exercise promotes strong muscles and bones and naturally lifts your mood.

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For those with diabetes, exercise can additionally help control your weight and lower your blood sugar – and it’s free. Just about any exercise is helpful, but particularly aerobic exercises, such as walking, biking or dancing.

“Getting into a new exercise routine can be difficult to start and stick with. One easy way is to choose a form of exercise that you enjoy, like an outdoor walk, dancing or cycling,” Clements says. “Enjoying the form of the exercise increases the likelihood that you’ll stick with it. If you choose to exercise with a partner, it can be even more fun.”

Check with your healthcare provider before starting any fitness routine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers these tips to consider before starting a new workout:

  1. Monitor your blood sugar level. Your blood sugar may fall too low when you exercise.
  2. Get the right gear and shoes for the exercise you choose; make sure shoes and socks fit well.
  3. Bring water with you. Sip water so you don’t get dehydrated.
  4. Take along something to eat. If your blood sugar falls a lot, you may need a quick snack.
  5. Watch for injuries and stop if you feel pain. If you get an injury, it may take longer for you to recover than it would someone without diabetes.
  6. Check your blood sugar after physical activity to see how it was affected by your workout.
  7. Check your shoes and feet every day. You need to be sure that you don’t get any blisters or small cuts that could get infected.

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It’s important to remember: an exercise program should be both effective and safe. Your physician can recommend safe exercises based on your condition and any lingering symptoms. For example, if you have foot pain, your healthcare provider may suggest activities that don’t stress your legs and feet, such as swimming.

While 150 minutes of exercise is recommended each week, adding exercise into your routine, especially if you are normally sedentary, is beneficial. Clements has seen firsthand how lifestyle changes can help patients with diabetes.

“We had a patient who modified his diet by cutting back on sodas, sweets and snacks and focused on exercising by walking three times per week, and eventually increasing that to five times a week,” Clements says. “Over the next four months, he proceeded to lose 10 pounds. These lifestyle changes allowed his A1C to decrease from 7.5 percent to 6.1 percent, and he didn’t need to start any medications to control his blood sugar levels.”

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