Low-Impact Activities for People With Diabetes
 
Swimming is a great low-impact exercise for diabetes.

Low-Impact Activities for People With Diabetes

By Ana G Reisdorf, MS, RD

Exercise is important to living a healthier life, and warm weather is the best time to get outside and get physically active. Exercise is particularly critical for people with diabetes, but when it's hot out, high-intensity exercise can be challenging.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't exercise.

By taking a few precautions and choosing the right exercise for diabetes, you can still stay active and feel fit and healthy during the warmest months of the year.

Exercise and Blood Sugar

Because heat can have a direct effect on your blood sugar, there are a few things to consider when it comes to maintaining your blood sugar before you start exercising. Your blood sugar changes depending on how hot it is, your hydration level and the type of activity you choose to do. If you become dehydrated, your blood sugar can go up — so be sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after any physical activity.

The combination of heat and humidity causes trouble for people with diabetes, too. Heavy humidity prevents sweat from evaporating and cooling your skin, and things start to get particularly dangerous once it reaches 80 degrees in the shade with 40 percent humidity. If you're going to be outside, check the heat index before you exercise, and stay inside during the hottest part of the day to prevent dehydration and blood sugar issues.

Exercise lowers blood sugar because it forces cells in the body to take in more glucose for energy. This may lead to a decreased need for insulin to help maintain normal blood sugar levels. The best thing to do for exercise and blood sugar monitoring is to check your levels before, during and after exercise. Ask your doctor what your ideal range is before you start exercising.

Before you start any physical activity or exercise program, you should talk to your doctor about making any adjustments to your medication or insulin regimen. Always remember to eat a small snack about an hour before exercising. And bring a snack or other items with you in case your blood sugar gets too low.

Exercise and Diabetes

So you've checked the weather and you're ready to get started. Here are five low-impact exercises for diabetes you can try out:

1. Swimming.

Swimming is a great way to stay cool and get some exercise. Even if you don't swim laps, just moving around in the water helps burn calories. Swimming is a full-body, low-impact exercise, so it's perfect for people with diabetes. It encourages all of the muscles in the body to use up excess blood glucose. There is also less risk of injury than with higher impact activities. Hit the pool, lake or river and cool off while you get in some physical activity.

2. Playing Outside with Your Kids.

Kids love to be outside, so why not join them? Any type of physical activity will help the body use up excess sugar in the blood, even if what you're doing doesn't feel like exercise. The best time to be outside is in the early morning or evening hours, when it's not as hot. Get out there and play a game of tag or hide-and-seek.

3. Exploring Light Hiking Trails.

Many cities have hiking trails nearby, so get out and go exploring. Walking helps lower blood sugar by increasing your sensitivity to insulin, and spending time in nature helps lower stress, a culprit of high blood sugar. Be sure to figure out how challenging the trail is before you go, and pack any necessary supplies, including plenty of water and snacks.

4. Practicing Yoga Outdoors.

Sure, yoga can be done inside in a studio, but it can be more enjoyable outdoors. Yoga is an incredible way to lower stress, which in turn helps control blood sugar. An early morning or evening class can help you get some exercise and connect with nature.

5. Canoeing in Calm Waters.

Head to a local river or lake and rent a canoe or kayak. Being near the water helps many of us feel calmer, which can lower our stress and help us manage our blood sugar. Canoeing and kayaking also force you to move more muscles than you think, and that can lead to better blood sugar control.

There is no ideal exercise for diabetes. The key is to be prepared. Talk to your doctor about your plans so you can set some goals and get a few ideas of what you should consider before exercising outside. Remember to bring snacks and water with you wherever you go. Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing to stay cool, and be sure to wear a hat and sunscreen if you're going to be outside. A little planning will help you stay safe and enjoy the weather.