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If you have diabetes or are at risk of diabetes, physical activity should be part of your routine. Regular exercise is beneficial because it allows active muscles to use up sugar as a source of energy, which prevents sugar build-up in the blood. When this happens, it can have a negative impact on you and your body. We spoke to pharmacy manager Faheem Ahmed, RPh, CDE, from the Walmart pharmacy in Kitchener, Ont., for his answers to common questions about exercise. He says,
I became a CDE [Certified Diabetes Educator] in an effort to better my community and my professional practice as a pharmacist. Being a CDE allows me to educate patients and help enhance their understanding of how to control their blood sugar.
Why is regular exercise important if I live with type 1 or type 2 diabetes?
Faheem: Regular exercise is an effective way to lower your blood sugar levels if you live with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. For some people with type 2 diabetes, exercise may work as effectively as some medications, and sometimes, with fewer side effects.
How much should I exercise? What kind of activity is best?
Faheem: At least 150 minutes of aerobic physical activity is recommended every week (for example, 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week). Aerobic exercises include activities with continuous movement, such as brisk walking, running, cycling, swimming, and other activities that increase your heart rate. At the beginning, shorter exercise sessions (5-10 minutes) are recommended for anyone who isn’t currently physically active. Gradually increase the duration over time.
Resistance exercise, another type of physical activity, is recommended two to three times per week. These exercises involve the use of free weights, weight machines, resistance bands, or using your own body’s weight to build and/or maintain muscle and strength (for example, push-ups, sit-ups, lunges).
Studies have shown the benefits of both aerobic and resistance exercise for people with diabetes, which together will have a greater impact.
When should I check my blood sugar levels after exercise?
Faheem: If you take insulin or medications that increase the release of insulin, you'll need to track your blood sugar before, during and after exercise. This will show you how your body responds to exercise, which can help you prevent potentially dangerous blood sugar fluctuations.
How does exercise affect my blood sugar levels? Will it make it harder to stay in my target range?
Faheem: Exercise can affect blood sugar levels by decreasing them. The more strenuous the workout, the longer you will experience the effect on your blood sugar. Some intense exercises, such as heavy weightlifting, produce adrenaline which can cause a temporary increase in blood sugar levels.
Exercise will not make it harder to stay in your target range; however, there are some strategies you can use to prevent high or low sugar levels: maintain an exercise routine of similar intensity and duration, and to begin incorporating exercise into your routine slowly if you are inactive. For some people, a low may result from a sudden, unusual amount of exercise.
How do I deal with highs or lows after a workout?
Faheem: By understanding the causes of highs and lows, you can avoid or better manage them. It is important to be familiar with the symptoms of low and high blood sugar levels: feeling shaky, hungry, weak/drowsy, or experiencing an increased heart rate for low levels; feeling tired, thirsty and frequently urinating for high levels.
To avoid hypoglycemia (also known as low blood sugar), in people with type 1 diabetes, Diabetes Canada 2018 Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Diabetes in Canada recommend adjusting insulin and increasing carbohydrate consumption. In people with type 2 diabetes, ensure proper hydration and monitor for signs of dehydration.
Treat low blood sugars immediately: drink or eat a fast-acting carbohydrate (glucose tabs, juice, honey) and wait 15 minutes before checking blood sugar levels again. Treat highs by adjusting your diet, physical activity, and medications (insulin).
Is there anything I should do before I start my exercise routine?
Faheem: Talk to your doctor before starting any intense exercise that is more difficult than brisk walking if you have been inactive for a while. Know the signs of low blood sugar and carry a fast-acting carbohydrate (such as glucose tablets) with you. Also, if you take medications to treat your diabetes, speak to your doctor as your dose might need to be adjusted depending on your level of exercise.
What effect does exercise have if I am at risk of developing type 2 diabetes?
Faheem: If you're at risk of developing type 2, regular exercise may help delay or prevent the onset of diabetes, along with boosting your overall fitness.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the sponsor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Diabetes Canada.
Author: Walmart Canada
Category Tags: Healthy Living;
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