Can Exercise Improve Your Diabetes?

Thursday, September 5, 2013 18:33 | Filled in discussions, information, janet's writing, Research studies, resources

Janet Still FNP

Lifestyle Modification Support


Can Exercise Improve Your Diabetes?

Easy answer …yes! But you knew I would say that. And that answer is just not enough, is it? Or for some of you, maybe it is and you are reading this article simply to get to the facts and suggested resources in hopes of finding something you can easily incorporate now into your everyday life. For both camps of readers, the purpose of this article is to briefly lead you to your unique goal of improving your health and your prognosis report.


First, for those of you that are reading with a feeling of angst regarding exercise, I understand that this condition of diabetes has likely already created much more upheaval to your lifestyle than you ever imagined you would have to endure. This article is purposefully brief with a goal of providing you some simple directions you can take today to retake control of your body.


For those of you that have already accepted change is your choice and who are seeking a way to turn around this character in your life called Diabetes, this writing is to provide you some resources and information that you can implement quickly, for your short term goals, and also that can be used to refine your direction over the long term.

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When your healthcare provider mentions that exercise improves glycemic control, she/he is sharing a key to your taking some of your body back. Plenty of research over the years continues to evaluate the specific details of how physical exercise alters blood sugar levels and reduces the body’s requirement for anti-diabetic medications. Reread that, yes, I said that exercise so changes your blood sugar levels that you will have to take LESS of your diabetes medications. Write that on a piece of paper and tape it to your morning mirror as motivation.


Three days a week, 30 minutes of moderate exercise, this is the repeated consensus of the minimum to reduce blood sugar. If you do not know, the way exercise works is that your muscles use the blood sugar! too, so that means less work on your pancreas and less work for your medication. Sounds good; let’s keep going with the good news….. what does “moderate exercise” mean exactly? My favorite way to define moderate exercise is: activity that allows one to engage comfortably in conversation while doing the activity. Easily one can see many activities one could incorporate into daily life that allow talking. Walking briskly with a friend or with your dog or how about from the far end of the parking lot are simple changes to include this moderate exercise. Playing with the kids or the neighbors’ kids an easy game of catch ball for 15 – 30 minutes and voila` you have just improved your body’s ability to manage its blood sugar level. Using stairs instead of the elevator; add up your time spent with household or office chores like vacuuming, dusting, and tidying at the end of the day; there are many normal activities that you can do with a focus to increasing your time spent moving.


I already do all that, you say. Or some of you say that thinking about it makes you tired. This is your body, your health, your independence, so I am assuming you read this with hopes for something unique to your situation. Taking a class is often a great way to have someone do all the calculating and training for you. Classes and trainers are a great idea to wake up your mind regarding what moderate exercise feels like; how to protect your body from injury so that you can keep exercising and taking back your life; and to just get you moving in a new direction. Choose the activity and teacher with an eye to gradual progression from your level of fitness to a moderate routine. Interview the teachers. Any trainer worth their salt cares about the people in their class and is also a great resource for more appropriate classes for your individual circumstances.


There are some standard resources for everyone regarding exercise and many other health topics, so keep them in mind as a back-up when making decisions about your health plan. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) always has brief and current statements available online with links to more detailed resources. The National Institute of Health also keeps abreast of research on health topics and routinely posts simple information. An example of the type of information you can find online is this very short info sheet on how much activity is sufficient for adult health: which outlines specific types of activity to meet the minimum requirements of adult health. The CDC also has a phone line dedicated to providing information at: 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636).


N swimYoga gets you moving and gently waking up those unused muscles, which can protect you from injury. Tai Chi is actually considered to be resistance exercise, so adds the benefit of keeping your bones healthy too. Dance classes with a focus on fun, movement, and progressive strength building are a happy way to keep your muscles using up blood sugar while having a good time meeting new folks. If a swimming pool is available to you, aqua aerobics is easy on the sense of working hard because water lessens the gravity while absorbing heat. And always walking is the simplest, most flexible, and very affordable exercise for changing your lifestyle into something you can still call your own. 


Call up your local hospital or your provider’s clinic to ask for recommended exercise groups, trainers, and/or classes. Schools and colleges offer adult education classes all year nowadays and usually include at least a few exercise classes at a reasonable cost to get you connected to your community’s resources. As mentioned before, classes offer the added benefit of meeting others with like goals as well as networking connections in general. Some gyms offer less expensive memberships for attending workout classes only. And just get out and walk….take notice of how you feel before and after the walk. Chances are very good that you will be glad you now have a good reason to get back into using your body…because it plain ‘ole feels good.


Resources and References:

American Diabetes Association; 2013. Fitness; American Diabetes Association: Food and Fitness. Retrieved from:

American Diabetes Association; 2013. Success story: Sarah Boison; American Diabetes Association: Success Stories. Retrieved from:

Casteneda, C., Layne, J., Munoz-Orians, L., Gordon, P., Walsmith, J., Foldvari, m., Roubenoff, R., Tucker, K., and Nelson, M. 2002. A randomized controlled trial of resistance exercise training to improve glycemic control in older adults with type 2 diabetes; Diabetes Care 25, 12; 2335-2341.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention CDC; 2011. How much physical activity do adults need?; CDC 24/7: Saving Lives, Protecting People: Physical Activity. Retrieved from:

National Institute of Health NIH, 2013. Get active; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Retrieved from:

van Dijk J, Tummers K, Stehouwer C, Hartgens F, van Loon L.; 2012. Exercise therapy in type 2 diabetes: is daily exercise required to optimize glycemic control? Diabetes Care 35, 5; 948-54.


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