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Diabetes & Heart Health: What to Include in Your Exercise Plan?

Dr. Ajay Rotte    04-01-2019 Consult

Regular exercise can help you manage diabetes and improve your heart health. When you have diabetes, there's a lot to manage - including watching what you eat; monitoring your blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure; checking in regularly with your doctor; and taking your medication. 

Everyone needs to get physical activity - and it's even more important when you have diabetes, which can also affect your heart. 

Aerobic Exercise for Heart Health
Cardiovascular exercise, also known as aerobic exercise, is what helps the heart most. Cardiovascular exercise works your heart muscle and gets blood and oxygen flowing to your tissues. It also helps to decrease bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol, as well as decrease blood pressure.

Aerobic exercise is any exercise that uses large groups of muscles, such as those in your legs, for a sustained period of time. Examples include:

-Walking
-Swimming
-Cycling
-Jogging
-Dancing
-Using an elliptical machine

I recommend that you get 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise at least five days a week, or a total of 150 minutes each week.

Strength Training for Diabetes Management
While aerobic activity is essential for maintaining heart health in people with diabetes, weight training is integral to directly impacting diabetes itself. This is because strengthening muscles can help lower blood sugar and make your body more sensitive to insulin.

Doing strength-training exercises does not mean you need to become a bodybuilder. Anything that creates muscle resistance will work. This can include:

-Using resistance bands
-Lifting handheld weights or using weight machines
-Calisthenics, such as plank poses, sit-ups, squats, and lunges
Heavy gardening or other household chores that involve lifting objects

To prevent injury, find a certified, trained person to teach you  a weight-training program that is suitable for your age and physical condition.

Flexibility Exercises for Overall Health
One last form of exercise to incorporate in your regular routine are flexibility exercises. That's because our bodies can become less flexible, especially as we get older. Stretching is really important, particularly for those over age 40, to promote flexibility.

Before You Get Started
Anyone with diabetes should discuss with their doctor any precautions that they may need to follow prior to starting an exercise program. First, get an evaluation by your physician for cardiovascular and weight training activity.

Putting it All Together
When you first get started on your exercise routine, your main focus should be on moving more each day. In fact, if you're sitting for extended periods, I recommend getting up and moving every 30 minutes.


You can always find ways to be physically active. It all starts with the first step.
 

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