Diabetes is a significant health issue for Arkansans, and we know that exercise can play an enormous role in its prevention and treatment. This week we’ll discuss how exercise affects blood glucose (or blood sugar), what a program of exercise for the diabetic should look like, and tips for getting started.
In response to the high number of diabetes cases, JRMC has created a program called LEAP – Learning, Evaluation, Activity and Prepared. The goal is to teach participants to manage and monitor their blood sugar, and to demonstrate the importance of exercise, which is frequently neglected. Melvin Orso is a LEAP participant, and you can find him working out at the Wellness Centers at least twice a week. “This is one of the best initiatives ever,” Orso commented. “The resistance tube education, structured exercise (with and without the resistance bands), and workouts on specific machines help you live a more quality life. I’ve committed to this program and I encourage any diabetic to check out.”
We’ll talk more about the LEAP program in a few minutes. Right now, let’s look at some of the ways that exercise can lower blood glucose:
- Physical activity increases insulin sensitivity, so your cells are better able to use any available insulin to take up glucose both during and after activity.
- When your muscles contract during exercise, it stimulates another mechanism that is completely separate from insulin. This mechanism allows your cells to use glucose for energy whether insulin is available or not.
- When you exercise on a regular basis, it can also lower your A1C.
Most people with diabetes can start a simple walking program without having any tests. However, the American Diabetes Association does suggest a pre-exercise stress test for anyone who has had diabetes for 10 years or longer, so check with your physician before launching an exercise plan.
If you’re just getting started, begin with low-impact cardiovascular activity like walking, swimming or bicycling, and gradually increase your daily exercise. You should exercise an hour or so after eating, when your blood sugar is likely to be a bit higher, and check your glucose before and after to see how your body responds to activity.
According to a joint statement by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Diabetes Association, individuals with Type 2 diabetes should:
- Accumulate a minimum of 150 minutes per week of at least moderately intense cardiovascular exercise (the pace of a brisk walk).
- Make sure the accumulation of those 150 minutes occurs on at least three separate days a week with no more than two consecutive days in between.
- Undertake strength training on at least two, but preferably three nonconsecutive days.
- Include in each session at least 5-10 exercises involving the major muscle groups of the body (lower body, upper body pull, upper body push, and core).
Have water and snacks handy when you exercise, especially carbohydrate-rich snacks that can quickly boost your blood sugar if it gets too low. And wear a medical identification bracelet or necklace that says you have diabetes just in case you get into trouble.
If you’d like some one on one instruction, JRMC’s four-phase LEAP program is tailored to each individual, teaching participants about the physiology of diabetes, how to manage and monitor glucose levels, and introducing exercise three days a week at the Pine Bluff and White Hall Wellness Centers. Workouts are appropriate for every age and stage of mobility, and the cost is just $25 per person. For more information, call Lisa Duke at 541-7195.