Should you exercise if you're diabetic? Of course. Just follow these precautions

Exercise is important because it improves glucose regulation, reduces the risk of heart disease, hypertension, cholesterol and excess weight. The timing of exercise, the amount of insulin injected and the injection site are important factors to consider before exercise.

A duration of 30 to 60 minutes of moderate-paced intensity exercises five to seven days of the week is recommended. If you are not accustomed to physical activity, you may start with a shorter duration and work your way up. As you become fitter, you can add a few extra minutes to your physical activity.

The two primary classes of diabetes are Type 1 (insulin dependant diabetes mellitus) and Type 2 (non-insulin dependant diabetes mellitus). Both types have distinct causes and different strategies for disease management.

Take care of your diabetes by

Exercising regularly and leading and active lifestyle

Following regular meal timings and planning healthy meals

Taking medicines, if prescribed by your doctor

Essential Dos Before Starting An Exercise Plan

Check with your doctor.

Always talk with your doctor before you start a new physical activity programme. Ask about your medicines — prescription and over-the-counter — and whether you should change the amount you take before you exercise. If you have heart disease, kidney disease, eye problems or foot problems, ask which types of physical activity are safe for you.

Plan for an exercise session.

The type of physical activity

The length of each session

The duration of warm-up, workout, stretching and cool-down

The measure of progress

Keep track of your physical activity.

Write down when you exercise and for how long in your blood glucose record book. You'll be able to track your progress and see how physical activity affects your blood glucose.

Modify calorie intake

Calorie intake should be carefully planned prior to and post-exercise. Also, in consultation with a physician a decrease in insulin dosage may be necessary.

Safety Precautions

Exercise involving heavy weights is not recommended for people with blood pressure, blood vessel or eye problems.

Hypoglycemia (low-blood sugar levels) can happen at the time you're exercising, just afterward, or even up to a day later. You can get shaky, weak, confused, irritable, anxious, hungry, tired, or sweaty. Always keep some form of glucose handy with you in case your sugar levels drop. To help prevent hypoglycemia during physical activity, check your blood glucose before you exercise.

Do not exercise if your blood glucose is above 300, or your fasting blood glucose is above 250 and you have ketones in your urine.

When you exercise, wear cotton socks and athletic shoes that fit well and are comfortable. After you exercise, check your feet for sores, blisters, irritation, cuts, or other injuries.

Drink plenty of fluids during physical activity, since your blood glucose can be affected by dehydration.

What Exercise?

Cardiovascular exercises

Moderate-intensity physical activities such as walking briskly, swimming or bicycling are important. These exercises work your large muscles and increase your heart rate. A minimum of 30 minutes, five to seven days of the week is necessary to improve functioning of the heart, lungs and circulatory system.

Yoga

Yoga asanas enhance the body's flexibility and improve blood circulation.

Relaxation techniques

Diabetes management can be emotionally stressful and the stress can adversely influence glucose levels. Find ways to reduce stress and enhance psychological well-being. Make a list of simple activities that help you de-stress; for example you could do deep breathing exercises, meditation, reading a book, listening to music, meeting a friend or walking in the park.

Nature's Foods

It is important is that you keep your health care provider up-to-date on any supplements that you utilise.

Cinnamon

Researchers have evaluated commonly used spices and found some that help lower blood sugar readings. Cinnamon is one of the highest rated for lowering blood levels. One teaspoon of cinnamon a day may lower blood glucose, triglycerides and cholesterol in people with Type 2 diabetes.

Walnuts

Six to eight a day can help lower insulin resistance and increase HDL (high density lipoprotein) levels and reduce LDL (low density lipoprotein) levels. They contain an Omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid or ALA which reduce risk of heart disease.

Garlic

Garlic (eating as little as one clove a day) has long been known to raise insulin sensitivity and provide strong anti-oxidant protection.

The writer is a certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist.