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Six exercises for people with diabetes

Did you know that exercise is particularly useful for people with diabetes? Exercise increases the effect of insulin and keeps blood sugar levels from rising. Exercise also promotes weight loss and improves balance, which are important because type 2 diabetes patients are often at risk of obesity and falls. Here are six fantastic exercises you can easily incorporate into daily life. Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any exercise routine and take things slowly at first. With time, the duration of and degree of effort in your exercise routine can be increased.

  • Walking: walking is one of the most recommended activities for people with type 2 diabetes. Brisk walking, ie, walking at pace to increase heart rate, is an aerobic exercise. It has been scientifically proven that the health of people with diabetes who participate in aerobic activities at least three days a week for a total of 150 minutes benefits. People with diabetes should not remain inactive, ie, without doing some form of aerobic exercise, for more than two consecutive days, according to the American Diabetes Association.
  • Tai chi: this Chinese martial art—practiced for centuries and known for its health benefits—is characterized by a series of movements performed in a slow and relaxed manner. Tai chi is ideal for people with diabetes because it combines fitness and stress reduction in one activity. Tai chi also improves balance and may reduce nerve damage, a common diabetic complication.
  • Weight training: weight training builds muscle mass, which is important for type 2 diabetes patients because muscle mass helps maintain blood sugar levels. As part of a diabetic management plan, resistance exercise or weight training should feature at least twice a week, preferably three. Rest is also important; there should be a day of rest between weight training sessions (other types of exercise are fine on these days).
  • Yoga: yoga reduces body fat, combats insulin resistance, and improves nerve function, which are all important in type 2 diabetes. Yoga is also fabulous for reducing stress, like tai chi.
  • Swimming: this aerobic exercise has the particularly benefit of being kind to your feet, compared with walking or jogging. This has particular implications in people with diabetes, who need to avoid all types of foot injury. Foot injuries in diabetes are slow to heal—due in part to reduced blood flow in the small blood vessels of the extremities—and prone to infection—due to elevated blood glucose levels. Swimming is ideal for obese type 2 diabetes patients because it relieves pressure on joints and allows for free and easy movement.
  • Exercise biking: aerobic exercise biking strengthens the heart and improves lung function. A stationary exercise bike can be ridden whatever the weather, doesn’t fall over, and doesn’t get punctures. Cycling improves peripheral blood flow in the legs—a particularly useful benefit indiabetes—and this energy-intensive activity helps keep your weight at healthy levels.