Dec 3, 2023
The Beginner Club - Starting to Exercise
Living with diabetes doesn’t mean sidelining your fitness goals. In fact, exercise can be a powerful ally in managing diabetes while improving your overall health. Whether you're new to exercise or looking to restart your fitness journey, here's your friendly guide to kickstarting an exercise routine while managing your glucose levels.
Starting an exercise routine with diabetes is about finding a rhythm that suits you. With gradual progress, a watchful eye on your health indicators, and the support of your healthcare team, you’re well on your way to embracing a healthier lifestyle. Your diabetes doesn't define you—it's absolutely possible to live an active life and engage in regular exercise and we are here to support and empower you along this journey.
Step 1: Team Up with Your Healthcare Provider
Your healthcare provider is your go-to coach for this fitness journey. Before diving into any exercise program, consult with them. They'll assess your health status, recommend suitable activities, and ensure you're equipped with the right guidance to exercise safely.
💡 Enhance-d offers a platform that tracks your glucose levels, exercise routines, and dietary intake, provide insights into how activities affect diabetes management for you and for your health care provider. Our long list of integrations with wearable devices like fitness trackers and continuous glucose monitors (CGM) provide real-time feedback and data analysis to make it easier for your healthcare team to tailor and adjust therapeutic decisions around your exercise routine. Our articles, videos, or webinars educate about exercising with diabetes, including tips, safety measures, and success stories.
Step 2: Choose Your Exercise Journey
The world of exercise is vast, and the best part is, you get to pick what suits you best. However, it can also be overwhelming. Choose activities that you enjoy and can commit to regularly. Think about mixing it up with aerobic exercises like walking, swimming, or cycling, and don't forget to add in some strength training and flexibility work for a balanced routine.
Starting with accessible activities lays a strong foundation for a successful exercise routine. Here are a few suggestions to consider:
Walking or Hiking
Why It's Great: Walking is one of the most accessible exercises for everyone. It's low-impact, requires no special equipment, and can be done almost anywhere—indoors, outdoors, or on a treadmill. If you have access to nature, hiking or walks outside has been shown to reduce stress, blood pressure and improve sleep.
Benefits for Beginners: Walking helps improve cardiovascular health and boosts mood. It's an easy way to ease into physical activity, gradually increasing pace and duration as fitness improves.
Swimming or Water Aerobics
Why It's Great: Swimming or water-based exercises are gentle on joints, making them ideal for beginners or those with joint issues. The water provides resistance without the impact of other exercises such as running or resistance training.
Benefits for Beginners: These activities improve cardiovascular fitness, strength, and flexibility. Plus, the buoyancy of water reduces the risk of injury, making it a safe option for starting an exercise routine.
Cycling or Stationary Biking
Why It's Great: Cycling, whether outdoors or on a stationary bike, is another low-impact exercise that's easy on the joints. It allows for gradual intensity adjustments and can be tailored to individual fitness levels.
Benefits for Beginners: Cycling improves leg strength, cardiovascular health, and can help with weight management. It’s a versatile exercise that allows you to control the pace and intensity as you progress.
Yoga or Tai Chi
Why It's Great: These mind-body practices focus on gentle movements, stretching, and breathing techniques. They improve flexibility, balance, and mindfulness, promoting overall well-being.
Benefits for Beginners: Yoga and Tai Chi help reduce stress, improve flexibility, and support mental clarity. They’re an excellent options for those looking for a more mindful approach to exercise.
Why These Are Good First Choices for People with Diabetes:
Low Impact: These activities are gentle on joints, reducing the risk of injury, which might be a concern for individuals with diabetes who have related conditions like neuropathy.
Adaptability: They can be easily adapted to individual fitness levels. Beginners can start slowly and gradually increase intensity as they build stamina and strength.
Accessibility: Most of these activities require minimal equipment and can be done at home or in a community setting, ensuring convenience and accessibility.
Health Benefits: Each activity offers various health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, better blood sugar management, increased flexibility, and reduced stress—all crucial for managing diabetes.
By beginning with these accessible activities, individuals with diabetes can comfortably ease into an exercise routine, gradually building confidence, strength, and overall fitness. These activities set the stage for a successful and enjoyable fitness journey.
Step 3: Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Start small and gradually build up. Begin with short, low-intensity workouts a few times a week. For example, a brisk 10-minute walk can be a fantastic starting point. Over time, slowly increase both the duration and intensity of your workouts.
Here a 12-week progressive exercise plan centered on cycling or stationary biking that can offer an excellent way to gradually build endurance and fitness levels while managing glucose levels.
Weeks 1-4: Establishing a Routine
Week 1-2: Getting Started
Frequency: Begin with 2-3 sessions per week.
Duration: Aim for 15-20 minutes at a comfortable pace.
Intensity: Start at a moderate intensity, focusing on maintaining a consistent rhythm.
💡 Research shows that as little as 45-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week can enhance insulin sensitivity. Improved insulin sensitivity allows the body to use insulin more effectively, aiding in better blood glucose regulation.
Week 3-4: Building Consistency
Frequency: Increase to 3-4 sessions per week.
Duration: Extend sessions to 25-30 minutes.
Intensity: Gradually increase intensity, adding short intervals of higher resistance or speed. For example, try adding a series of 1-2 minute intervals at a higher intensity with 1-2 minutes of recovery.
💡 Studies indicate that consistent exercise, even at a moderate level, can help manage blood sugar levels in individuals with diabetes. It aids in reducing postprandial glucose levels and improving overall glycemic management.
Week 5-8: Stepping Up the Challenge
Week 5-6: Pushing Further
Frequency: Try to maintain 3 to 4 sessions per week.
Duration: Aim for 30-35 minutes, gradually adding intervals of higher intensity.
Intensity: Incorporate longer intervals of higher resistance or faster pedaling if you’re cycling. For example, try to extend the duration of high intensity intervals while reducing the recovery time between them.
💡 Engaging in 100-150 minutes of exercise weekly significantly lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. It aids in maintaining healthy blood pressure, reducing LDL cholesterol levels, and improving overall heart health.
Week 7-8: Building Endurance
Frequency: Increase to 5 sessions per week.
Duration: Extend sessions to 40-45 minutes, focusing on sustaining a steady pace.
Intensity: Mix up workouts with intervals of varying intensity, including some longer, more challenging segments and try adding 1 strength session with home-based body weight movements or a session in the gym
💡 Strength training helps in building muscle mass. Greater muscle means means an improved body composition and improved metabolic health in individuals with and without diabetes.
Week 9-12: Pushing the Limits and Maintaining Progression
Week 9-10: Intensifying Workouts
Frequency: Maintain 5 sessions per week.
Duration: Aim for 45-50 minutes, increasing resistance or speed during specific intervals.
Intensity: Push harder during intervals, challenging yourself with longer bursts of higher intensity.
Week 11-12: Final Push and Progress Evaluation
Frequency: Maintain 5 sessions per week.
Duration: Aim for 50-60 minutes, focusing on maintaining a challenging yet sustainable pace.
Intensity: Include intervals of high intensity while ensuring a proper cool-down period.
💡 Maintenance of exercise to 100-150 minutes per week offers a broad spectrum of benefits, including improved insulin sensitivity, enhanced blood glucose management, better cardiovascular health, weight control, mental well-being, and reduced risks of diabetes-related complications. This level of physical activity significantly contributes to a healthier and more manageable lifestyle for individuals living with diabetes.
Tips and Notes:
Warm-Up and Cool-Down: Always start with a 5-10 minute warm-up and end with a 5-10 minute cool-down at an easier pace to reduce the risk of injury and aid recovery.
Progression: Gradually increase either the duration, intensity, or frequency of workouts each week, but listen to your body and avoid overexertion. Try to complete a total of 45-60 minutes of exercise for the first 2-3 weeks, then gradually move toward 90-120 minutes per week to then reach the optimal amount of 150 minutes plus of physical activity per week.
Hydration and Nutrition: Stay hydrated before, during, and after workouts. Maintain a balanced diet, especially before longer or more intense sessions. Prepare for emergencies by carrying fast-acting carbohydrates, like glucose tablets or gels or energy bars, while you exercise.
Monitoring: Keep track of your workouts, blood glucose levels, and how you feel after each session to assess progress and adjust the plan if needed.
Step 3: Check Your Levels
Monitoring your blood glucose levels before, during, and after workouts to understand how your body responds to different activities. This helps tailor your routine and make necessary adjustments to ensure that you are safe while exercising.
Also, track your progress! Keep a record of your exercise routines, blood glucose levels, and how you feel after workouts. This information helps identify patterns and enables you to adjust your routine accordingly. This is also important so that you can see how far you’ve come in your journey towards becoming fitter and healthier.
💡 Enhance-d offers a platform that tracks blood glucose levels, exercise routines, and dietary intake, provide insights into how activities affect diabetes management. Our long list of integration with wearable devices like fitness trackers and CGM provides real-time feedback and data analysis to make it easier for your to tailor and adjust therapeutic decisions around your exercise routine. Our articles, videos, or webinars educate about exercising with diabetes, including tips, safety measures, and success stories.
Step 4: Consistency is the Key
Consistency is your best friend on this journey. Aim for regular exercise sessions throughout the week. Even on days when a full workout seems daunting, sneak in some physical activity—every bit counts! But safety first, always! Reduce the risk of hypoglycaemia by carrying fast-acting carbohydrates, like glucose tablets or juice, while you exercise. Be mindful that your risk of hypoglycemia after exercising can be increased. Also, before diving into your workout, check your blood glucose levels. If they’re too high or too low, it might not be the best time to start exercising. Speak to your doctor if you are unsure.
Before embarking on your exercise routine, testing your blood glucose levels is like checking the weather before a hike—it helps you prepare. High levels might indicate the need for insulin or to wait or adjust the intensity of exercise you are about to undertake, while low glucose levels might call for a snack to avoid a blood sugar dip mid-workout.
By beginning with these accessible activities and actionable simple insights, individuals with diabetes can comfortably ease into an exercise routine, gradually building confidence, strength, and overall fitness. These suggestions and activities set the stage for a successful and enjoyable fitness journey. And as always, listen to your body, make adjustments as needed. You are becoming the expert in managing your diabetes around your exercise routine!