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Best Exercises For People With Diabetes

Physical activity is a key element in preventing and managing diabetes. Many studies have mentioned the importance of regular exercise in diabetes. It not only improves blood glucose but also helps control cholesterol levels to prevent diabetes-related complications such as hypertension or cardiovascular events.

Exercises not only help in weight loss for diabetics but also maintain the proper functioning of all the organs such as kidney, liver and heart, which are at greater risk of getting affected due to hyperglycemia.

In this article, we will discuss some of the best exercises for people with diabetes. Remember, the benefits of physical activities are realised only when they are combined with a healthy diet.

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1. Brisk Walking

Brisk walking is the best low-intensity exercise for people with type 2 diabetes. It has a glucose-lowering effect and may also positively affect the psychological well-being of a person. Brisk walking is also considered a good way to start with physical activities in sedentary persons with type 2 diabetes. Additionally, moderate walking does not increase the risk of foot ulcers in people with peripheral neuropathy. [1]

2. Swimming

A study suggests that swimming exercise can be a potent ameliorator for insulin resistance, a major hallmark for people with type 2 diabetes. It may help enhance the body's functions to use and absorb glucose effectively. The study has also mentioned that insulin resistance induced by high-fat diet in diabetics can be improved with eight weeks of swimming. [2]

3. Dancing

According to a study, dance can be an effective strategy to perform a physical activity and control blood glucose levels. It is one of the best forms of leisure-time activities that can stimulate positive emotions and promote social interactions, and moreover, can allow diabetics to share their personal experiences. Also, the music during the dance is known to provide beneficial effects on cognitive functions. Some of the best dance types for diabetics include Zumba, Latin dance, standard ballroom dance and aerobic dance. [3]

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4. Cycling

Cycling is a form of aerobic exercise that may cause a significant decrease in glucose levels along with weight and blood pressure. It is considered the best exercise form for diabetics under 40 years, considering the fact that the prevalence of diabetes in India under 40 years of age is just 35 per cent. Therefore, cycling is suggested as the best and easy form of physical activity for managing as well as preventing diabetes. Also, it may be more effective when combined with resistance and/or combined training. [4]

5. Pilates

Pilates are low-impact exercises that help strengthen muscles along with improving flexibility and alignment. Diabetes tends to lower the skeletal muscle mass and obstructs their way of storing and using glucose. A study has shown that 12 weeks of pilates can help improve the glucose levels in older women with type 2 diabetes. The session was done for 60 minutes and three times a week for 12 weeks. [5]

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6. Climbing Stairs

Busy lifestyles can lessen physical activities in diabetics, which are very important in the long-term management of the condition and improved quality of life. According to a study, low-moderate intensity exercises such as stair-stepping can potentially cause beneficial effects on glucose levels in people with diabetes. It can be the best short duration and low-cost exercise with promising effects on glucose levels. [6]

7. Household chores

Self-management is a critical component of care in diabetics. Most of the management process of diabetes takes place within the family or say the social environment. Household chores are considered one of the easiest indoor exercises for diabetes. Dusting, mopping, vacuuming, and washing clothes can help provide the same benefits as outdoor exercises or gym-related exercise training. [7]

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8. Resistance training

Resistance exercise is recommended at least twice or thrice a week (along with regular aerobic) on non-consecutive days for individuals with diabetes. It helps maintain blood glucose and muscle mass and strength. Each session should include around 5-10 exercises with a focus on upper, lower and core body muscles. With time, the training should progress to heavier weights lifting such as dumbbells. Remember to consult a trainer for such exercises to avoid injuries. [8]

9. Strength exercises

Strength exercises can be an alternative to endurance training for diabetics. It can increase glucose transporter proteins and insulin receptors for better insulin action in skeletal muscles. A study suggests performing strength exercises such as pushups and tricep dips for 30 minutes, three times a week. [9]

  • Pushups: One can do pushups by lying down on the floor, with face down and arms on the floor. Position the legs properly and tighten the abs. Keep the back straight and push the body up and down. Repeat the exercise at least 10 times for better results.
  • Triceps Dip Sit: The exercise is mainly focused on triceps, but can also help build strength in the shoulders and chest when done regularly. You can do it with the help of a chair. On a chair's edge, bend from backwards and place your hand over it with shoulders wide apart. Extend your legs and slide forward slowly. Bend your arms slowly towards the floor and then push your back up.

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10. Combined aerobic and resistance

Both aerobic and resistance training are suggested by experts to get greater benefits in controlling blood glucose levels, then with either of them alone. A study says that combined training can help improve lean body mass, provide muscle strength for better insulin metabolism and thus, improve diabetes. [10]