Most people with diabetes are aware that eliminating excess sugar from their diet is essential to controlling blood glucose levels. However, consistent exercise is equally as important. Besides lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, strengthening the heart muscle and assisting in losing or maintaining body weight, regular exercise improves the body's ability to lower blood sugar and keep it stable. In fact, studies have shown that when physically active non-diabetics cut their regular amount of exercise in half for only three days they experienced a 97% higher-than-normal spike in blood sugar one hour after eating a meal.
Researchers have also found that taking a short 15 minute walk after meals helped reduce post-meal blood sugar spikes.
Additionally, since exercise improves blood circulation, it can aid in reducing the risk of peripheral neuropathy, a common side effect of diabetes.
The reason exercise is so important and helpful for those with diabetes is because the body needs extra energy from glucose when performing physical activity. Sustained moderate exercise causes the body to utilize glucose at up to 20 times the normal rate. This helps to lower blood sugar levels.
Note: Intense exercise may cause blood sugar levels to temporarily rise once you stop.
The key, as always, is consistency. If you are not currently active, aim for 10 minutes of exercise at a time and gradually work up to at least 30 minutes. If you are diabetic it is a good idea to have a healthy carbohydrate snack, such as a piece of fruit, available in case your blood sugar drops too low. Of course prior to starting any new fitness regimen consult with your doctor.