The Link Between Insulin Management and Exercise
Exercise is crucial for people with type 2 diabetes. It helps manage weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Regular physical activity strengthens muscles and bones and promotes good mental health.
Such conditions are interconnected but in this post, we will go in-depth on the link between exercise and lowering blood sugar through a process called insulin management.
Blood Sugar, Insulin, and Exercise
Exercise makes the body more sensitive to insulin, allowing it to breakdown sugar in the blood faster and more efficiently. This is the most important benefit people with diabetes can get from constantly engaging in physical activity.
However, monitoring blood glucose levels is a must to prevent hypoglycemia. This is especially crucial for those relying on insulin injections and oral diabetes pills as the blood sugar-lowering effect is doubled in their systems.
The key in maximizing the benefits of exercise on insulin management is working with a doctor, nurse, or dietician on a plan that integrates all diabetes needs—your diet, insulin, hydration, and exercise regimen.
Benefits of Exercise on Diabetes and Insulin Levels
Lots of studies have proven the benefits of exercise on diabetes. Some notable ones include:
- A randomized clinical trial published in 2016 concluded that both dry land and aquatic aerobic exercises decrease glycated hemoglobin, improve resting heart rate, and lower low-density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol.
- A systematic review and meta-analysis published on The Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing in 2020 noted the profound positive effect of aerobic exercise on hypertension and type 2 diabetes mellitus.
- Low-volume HIIT (high-intensity interval training) paired with 12 minutes of weekly high-intensity exercise has shown to improve liver fat, blood glucose levels, and cardiorespiratory fitness in people with type 2 diabetes in a randomized controlled trial conducted in Sydney in 2019.
The Best Time to Exercise
In general, the best time to engage in physical activity 1-3 hours after eating because this is when the body has digested food and blood glucose level is likely to be higher.
Still, it is advised that a person with diabetes checks his or her blood glucose level prior to exercising. A reading below 100 mg/dL requires having a small snack or a fruit before starting to prevent hypoglycemia.
It’s also important to note that exercise may increase blood sugar levels, especially in people with glucometer readings of an average of 250 mg/dL. Thus, checking blood post-workout is important.
Don’t forget to bring glucose tablets and wear a medical alert bracelet indicating you take insulin and that you have diabetes.
How to Integrate Regular Exercise to Your Insulin Management Regimen
Plan It Out
Talk to your doctor about an exercise plan that has the right balance of aerobic and strengthening exercises. Together, you can craft a plan that incorporates your daily routine, exercise intensity preferences, and insulin intake schedule. Your doctor may advise you to take a lower dose of insulin before exercising to avoid hypoglycemic episodes.
Follow the exercise schedule recommended by your doctor and make sure to ask about the appropriate blood glucose reading for you prior to exercising.
Know the warning signs of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. Cold sweat, dizziness, shaky feeling, irritability, lightheadedness, confusion, hunger, exhaustion, and anxiety are things to watch out for.
Bring Your Supplies With You
Remember to drink plenty of water or electrolyte fluids while exercising and carry glucose tablets or snacks with you when you go out for a run.
Wear a medical ID for type 2 diabetic so people around you will know what to do or who to call in case of emergency.
If you go to the gym or workout away from your house, make sure to carry your diabetes kit with you and that you have proper insulin storage. As mentioned, exercise can also cause an increase in blood sugar levels, and the best way to address such incidents is using insulin.
Keep Monitoring Your Condition
Should hypo or hyperglycemic episodes continue to happen despite following your prescribed exercise and treatment plan, consult your doctor. Your insulin dosage and schedule, diet, and activity regimen may need to be adjusted.
Ultimately, remember that insulin is treated like a “drug.” It interacts with substances inside the body. If you’re considering taking workout supplements or diet pills, it’s best to discuss it first with your doctor.
Types of Exercise for Diabetics
The best exercises for glycemic management include flexibility, aerobic, and resistance training.
Cardio or Aerobic Training Exercises
Aerobic exercise training increases insulin sensitivity. They involve repeated and continuous movements of large muscle groups and are meant to produce energy. Examples are:
Try to do at least 30 minutes of cardio-boosting exercises every day. If the duration is too much, try breaking it into shorter periods of 10 minutes and build it up from there.
And do not limit yourself to the concept of working out when exercising. A simple walk in the morning with your dog and gardening can help your body expend and produce energy.
Strength and Resistance Exercise
Resistance training helps improve muscle mass and strength, body fat composition, bone mineral density, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and, of course, insulin sensitivity. It is meant to assist the body in developing lean and efficient muscles.
Weight equipment is usually involved in strength training exercises. It’s best to consult a trainer first before lifting. You can also try planks and pull-ups but with professional assistance if you’re not familiar with such routines.
Flexibility and Balance Training
Flexibility exercises improve muscle and joint mobility, while balance training aids in improving gait, helping prevent falls related to peripheral neuropathy. Stretching before and after exercising is a way to improve flexibility and balance.
Commit to Exercising and Managing Insulin Levels
Make exercising regularly and taking insulin on schedule a commitment. Follow your prescribed diet plan and work on your body weight. Doing so will drive your body towards being efficient in metabolizing its glucose content, preventing insulin resistance.
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