Your doctor advised you to exercise regularly and you want to hit the ground running, but you’re stuck on where to start or just don’t know the kind of exercise that will reap you more benefits. Or maybe you have a busy schedule and just can’t block an hour to hit the gym, go jogging, or engage in a cardiovascular/strength training exercise but still want to be conscious of your health and manage your blood glucose level. Does that sound familiar?
Managing type 2 diabetes and exercising regularly go hand in hand. This is because exercising can aid in weight loss and enhance the body’s sensitivity to insulin. However, starting an exercise routine can be a daunting task that will need lots of discipline till you form a habit. The exercise you choose to start with should be relatively easy but be sure to increase intensity or incorporate more exercise as you go. And walking is one of those exercise that you can start today.
Below are 5 ways in which walking can help in diabetes management.
1. Blood sugar control.
Diabetes is caused by insulin resistance; either the beta cells in the pancreas cannot secrete enough insulin or the body cannot efficiently use the insulin to facilitate cellular glucose uptake. This then results in high blood sugar, a condition that can cause serious complications to major body organs. When you engage in exercise by walking, for example, your body uses energy in the form of glucose (blood sugar) therefore, helping in lowering it. Regular walking can help improve your A1C score, a test that measures your average blood sugar control over the past 2 to 3 months to diagnose or manage your diabetes.
2. Improved heart health.
People with diabetes are more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases than people who don’t because high blood can damage blood vessels and nerves that control the heart. Walking can help lower blood pressure and reduce bad cholesterol thus improving overall heart health.
3. Weight Loss.
Most folks with type two diabetes are either overweight or obese and struggle with healthy weight management. One way of managing diabetes is losing weight, which means losing bad cholesterol that builds at the walls of coronary arteries thus decreasing blood flow to the heart.
Diabetes patients are advised to eat a balanced diet as guided by their doctors or nutritionists. Coupled with aerobic exercises such as walking, patients can lose weight which increases insulin sensitivity and removes bad cholesterol from the body thus maintaining healthy blood flow to the heart.
4. Improved mood and stress relief.
People with diabetes are at greater risk of becoming depressed than normal people. Managing type 2 diabetes is challenging and can be stressful at times. Walking can be the greatest exercise for improving your emotional health. It releases endorphins, the feel-good hormones that can lift your mood and relieve your stress.
5. Fewer complications
Uncontrolled diabetes is associated with long-term body organ damage, particularly to blood vessels, nerves, heart, kidneys eyes, and feet. Walking can help manage blood sugar thus reducing the risk of those complications.
Get the opinion of your doctor before starting any exercise program. It’s always good to start walking or any exercise slowly and progress as you get used to it. If you find that exercise lowers your blood sugar, talk to your doctor about adjusting your medications.
How to get started
A good way to get started is by having an idea of how many steps you get each day. Using a pedometer or phone app is a great way to track this. Then try to add 1000 -2000 more steps each week until you are at a level where you are getting at least 7000 steps per day and shooting for over 10,000.
Another option is to break up your walk into shorter segments. Three short post-meal walks have proved to be effective at reducing blood sugar during 24 hours.
When you exercise each day, you can control your blood sugar much better which is critical for managing type 2 diabetes. Walking each day, managing stress, getting enough sleep, eating right, and taking your medication is very important for managing type 2 diabetes.
The Diabetes Prevention Program found that people with prediabetes who exercised /walked frequently at 150-180 minutes per week lost 8 percent of their body weight. Walking is one of the best exercises you can do, and it is low impact and less likely to injure joints and ligaments. It’s free, and you can do it almost anywhere.
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