Exercising Safely to Help Manage Diabetes

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Ahead of World Diabetes Day, experts from a top American Hospital, Cleveland Clinic, name their top five activities for people with diabetes and share some precautions to bear in mind

Andrea Harris

Cleveland, Ohio: Exercise offers surprising benefits for people with diabetes; it may lower their blood sugar levels and even reduce insulin requirements, but there are several additional safety precautions for these patients to follow, say experts from a top American Hospital, Cleveland Clinic, ahead of World Diabetes Day on 14 November.

Exercise is recognized as important for people with diabetes and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the U.S. recommends 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week.

Here, two registered nurses and certified diabetes care and education specialists (CDCES) from Cleveland Clinic, Sue Cotey and Andrea Harris, identify five of the best exercises for a person with diabetes, including the benefits of each and how much time to spend engaging in these activities.

5 exercises for people with diabetes

Cotey says people with diabetes should try to make a habit of doing the following exercises on a regular basis. “They will give you the maximum benefits to help you manage your diabetes, and are relatively easy to fit in each day. Keep in mind that the best exercise is the one you enjoy and can do safely,” she adds.

          1. Walking — As anyone can do it almost anywhere, walking is the most popular exercise and highly recommended for people with diabetes, says Cotey. Spending 30 minutes on brisk walking five times each week is a great way to increase physical activity. It can even be broken down into 10-minute sessions, three times a day.

          2. Tai Chi —This Chinese form of exercise uses slow, smooth body movements to relax the mind and body, explain the experts. Studies have shown those who complete tai chi sessions show significant improvement in blood sugar control. They also report increased vitality, energy and mental health.

          3. Yoga — A traditional form of exercise, yoga incorporates fluid movements that build flexibility, strength and balance. “It’s helpful for people with a variety of chronic conditions, including diabetes. It lowers stress and improves nerve function, which leads to an increased state of mental health and wellness,” says Cotey. She adds that, according to the American Diabetes Association, yoga may improve blood glucose levels due to improved muscle mass.

          4. Dancing — “Dancing is not only great for your body. The mental work to remember dance steps and sequences actually boosts brain power and improves memory. For those with diabetes, it is a fun and exciting way to increase physical activity, promote weight loss, improve flexibility, lower blood sugar and reduce stress,” says Harris. She adds that chair dancing, which incorporates the use of a chair to support people with limited physical abilities, makes dancing an option for many people. In just 30 minutes, a 150-pound adult can burn up to 150 calories.

          5. Swimming — Swimming stretches and relaxes muscles and does not put pressure on your joints, which is great for people with diabetes, say the experts. For those with diabetes or at risk for developing diabetes, studies show it improves cholesterol levels, burns calories and lowers stress levels. “To get the most benefit from swimming, we recommend that you swim at least three times a week for at least 10 minutes and gradually increase the length of the workout,” says Cotey. She advises individuals to let the lifeguard know that they have diabetes before getting into the pool.

About Cleveland Clinic

Cleveland Clinic – now in its centennial year – is a nonprofit multispecialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. Located in Cleveland, Ohio, it was founded in 1921 by four renowned physicians with a vision of providing outstanding patient care based upon the principles of cooperation, compassion and innovation. Cleveland Clinic has pioneered many medical breakthroughs, including coronary artery bypass surgery and the first face transplant in the United States. U.S. News & World Report consistently names Cleveland Clinic as one of the nation’s best hospitals in its annual “America’s Best Hospitals” survey. Among Cleveland Clinic’s 70,800 employees worldwide are more than 4,660 salaried physicians and researchers, and 18,500 registered nurses and advanced practice providers, representing 140 medical specialties and subspecialties. Cleveland Clinic is a 6,500-bed health system that includes a 173-acre main campus near downtown Cleveland, 19 hospitals, more than 220 outpatient facilities, and locations in southeast Florida; Las Vegas, Nevada; Toronto, Canada; Abu Dhabi, UAE; and London, England. In 2020, there were 8.7 million total outpatient visits, 273,000 hospital admissions and observations, and 217,000 surgical cases throughout Cleveland Clinic’s health system. Patients came for treatment from every state and 185 countries.