Best Exercises for Diabetes & Pre-Diabetes
If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, you’ve probably heard from your physician about the importance of a good diet and regular exercise. Consistent body movement (which goes beyond walking to the fridge) will help boost energy, better manage blood sugar levels, reduce insulin needs, manage stress, improve your mood and promote better sleep. If you’re like me and have glucose management issues, the temptation to sit on the couch after a long day is often overcome by my uplifted mood and energy level after a brisk walk or workout.
So here are some of the best exercises to engage in.
Dancing not only provides a physical workout but boosts your memory with the mental work required to remember steps and sequences. Have you tried Zumba? It’s a form of dance that’s a fun way to increase physical activity, lower blood sugar and reduce stress. In this study, a 16-week Zumba dance class program improved markers of health and fitness in Type 2 diabetic or overweight women. Here’s a beginner 20-minute Zumba workout to try:
Did you know that diabetes is a predictor for osteoarthritis? In this study, the findings showed a strong correlation between Type 2 diabetes and development of severe osteoarthritis. Another common risk with diabetes is diabetic neuropathy which damages nerves causing joint pain. So for those with joint pain, choosing low impact exercise like cycling can help you get the movement without straining your joints. If you have a bike and a decent path around the neighborhood, this is a fun exercise to enjoy with a partner. I prefer to ride on flat roads and gradually increase the length of time on the bike but if you’re up for the challenge, try a hill or two! Here are 10 popular bike trails in North Carolina: https://www.visitnc.com/story/hVVj/popular-north-carolina-bike-trails-cycling-routes
Pilates is a form of exercise that is performed on a mat (or equipment) to promote muscular strength, stability, endurance and low-impact flexibility. According to this study, 12 weeks of Pilates training improved glycemic control in older women with Type 2 diabetes. The beauty of Pilates is that you don’t need any fancy equipment to get the benefits and you can do this at home in the comfort of your living room. Here’s a 25-minute beginner workout to try:
This is one of the most joint-friendly activities with maximum aerobic benefit as it works your heart, lungs and muscle without putting pressure on your joints. This study demonstrated the reduction in HbA1c levels in patients with Type 2 diabetes after 8-12 weeks of aquatic exercise. So whether it’s freestyle, backstroke, breast stroke, water aerobics or jogging in place, find a pool nearby and jump in!
This centuries-old Chinese martial art utilizes slow, flowing exercises with movement, meditation and rhythmic breathing. This analysis of 14 research studies showed that Tai Chi can effectively reduce blood glucose and HbA1c markers in Type 2 patients with diabetes. New to Tai Chi? How about this 15-minute sunrise Tai Chi (or whenever you are up) to start your day?
You may have heard that being sedentary is as bad as smoking for your health. One of my favorite activities is walking as it can be done just about anywhere and the only equipment required is a good pair of sneakers. In this analysis of 81 studies, there was a strong correlation between physical activity and decreased risk of Type 2 diabetes. All subtypes of physical activity were beneficial whether it was vigorous or low intensity. The Standards of Medical Care of Diabetes recommends 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week. So aim for 30 minutes of brisk walking 5-6 times per week and bring a pet or a friend along for company. If you are walking on the treadmill, find a good Netflix show to indulge in – I’ve often walked over an hour on the treadmill because I was so engrossed in the show that I didn’t realize how time had passed!
Resistance training and other strengthening exercises help build muscle mass but also increase the number of calories burned. According to this study, 10 weeks of resistance training has shown to increase resting metabolic rate and reduce visceral fat, resting blood pressure and HbA1c. Don’t have weights at home or have a desire to venture out to the gym? No problem – resistance bands are also effective in improving glycemic control according to this study. I have a set of these at home – they come in a set and are easy to carry when traveling.
Yoga is one of the perfect exercises for diabetes. It incorporates fluid body movements to build flexibility, strength and balance while lowering stress and improving mental function. This study demonstrated the feasibility of yoga as a complementary therapy with significant reductions in HbA1c and improved blood glucose and psychosocial factors in patients with Type 2. You don’t have to pay for a class or join a gym to enjoy yoga as there are a plethora of free options. Here is one of my favorite channels: