What I Wish I Had Always Known about Exercise and Diabetes

From mood to muscles, fitness routine can help overall management.

Sheri Colberg-Ochs By Sheri Colberg-Ochs, PhD

Even though I have personally been living with diabetes since I was four years old (in 1968), I knew even back then—more than a decade before the era of home blood glucose monitoring began—that exercise did good things for my blood sugars. How could I tell without a meter? Mainly I knew because being active always made me feel better, physically and emotionally, in ways that nothing else could. In fact, as I went through my teenage years without any way to know what my blood sugars were, exercising regularly gave me the only sense of control that I had over my diabetes. There are some things that I know now about exercise that I wish someone had told me years ago. Luckily, times have changed, and you have access to information now about exercise and diabetes (any type) that I did not.

For starters, did you know that exercise can virtually erase your blood sugar mistakes? I knew it helped me, but it wasn't until I got my first monitor in the mid-1980s that I found out how much. Why? Exercise acts as an extra dose of insulin by getting the sugar out of your blood and into your muscles without insulin (through an insulin-independent mechanism related to muscle contractions themselves). When you're not being active, your body needs insulin to stimulate that uptake. Being regularly active makes your muscles more sensitive to any insulin in your body as well, so it takes less to get the job done. What better way to help erase a little overeating of carbs (or a slight lack of insulin or insulin resistance) than a moderate dose of exercise to lower your blood sugar?

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Last Modified Date: April 23, 2013

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by Brenda Bell
Many people say that depression is a side effect or complication of diabetes. Without discounting the association of the psychological condition with the physical one, I'm not convinced that our high and/or unstable glucose levels are directly responsible for that change in our mental state. My belief is that the unrelenting need for self-care, for following the sort of care schedules that can drive licensed, professional caregivers crazy, is what overwhelms us...
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