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Exercise precaution
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Play it safe
Fitness: How sweet it is

The sugar/sweat connection
The sugar/sweat connection

As the main source of fuel for the body, glucose gives our cells energy. For glucose to move from the blood to the cells, it needs the hormone insulin. For people with diabetes, their insulin is either deficient or their bodies don’t respond to it properly. This can lead to a glucose buildup in the blood, with the cells unable to tap into it for fuel.

But exercise helps. First, when you exercise, muscles contract, allowing for more glucose to enter the cells. Second, physical activity can increase your insulin sensitivity, meaning your body requires less insulin to get sugar into your cells. What’s more, since diabetes is often associated with obesity, exercise plays an important role in reducing weight and keeping it off.

You know physical activity is good for you. But when you have a chronic health condition like diabetes—and more than 20 million Americans do—exercise can be even more important. It’s been shown to improve blood-sugar control as well as protect against heart disease and nerve damage—two disabling and sometimes deadly complications of diabetes.

Play it safe

If you have diabetes, you need to be careful when working out. But you can still get the full health benefits exercise offers by following these do’s and don’ts:

  • DO speak to your healthcare provider about whether you should avoid certain activities. For example, some people with diabetes have problems with the blood vessels in their eyes. Very strenuous activities like running and heavy weight lifting could lead to retinal detachment.
  • DON’T exercise unless you know your blood-glucose levels. Check your blood-glucose levels before, during and after your workout. If they’re high, exercise can make them go higher. In other cases, exercise can cause blood-glucose levels to drop too low. Ask your doctor whether it might be wise to carry glucose tablets, candy or sugared drinks with you when you exercise.
  • DO pay attention to your feet. Many people with diabetes have nerve damage to their feet—which means they may be slow to notice blisters or other sores. Wear shoes that fit well and check your feet after exercise for signs of injury.
  • DON’T ignore your thirst. Dehydration can affect blood-sugar levels. Drink before, during and after exercise.
  • DO wear something that identifies you as having diabetes. In an emergency, a medical ID bracelet or medallion could mean the difference between life and death.

Fitness: How sweet it is

As always, consult with your provider for exercise guidelines. For optimum fitness, most doctors recommend moderate-intensity activity (brisk walking, swimming or biking) for at least 30 minutes a day, five or more times a week. To stay committed to exercise, choose activities you like to do and break down your fitness goals into manageable steps. For instance, write down a week’s exercise schedule, noting the activities you’ll perform and for how long. At week’s end, reward yourself with something you enjoy—fresh flowers or a trip to the movies—and give yourself a much-deserved pat on the back (two if you want to burn more calories!).