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Move More to Manage Type 2 Diabetes

By Claire Kowalchik

One-question quiz: What’s one of the best ways to keep blood sugar levels in line?


a. Drink more water
b. Be more active
c. Eat more donuts

If you answered b, be more active, you are correct.

“Skeletal muscle [the muscles of movement] is your body’s biggest consumer of blood sugar,” says Timothy Church, MD, MPH, PhD, professor of preventative medicine at Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University. “The immediate effect of exercise is to help control blood sugar for 24 to 48 hours post-workout as muscle cells pull glucose from your blood to replenish spent stores.”

As you continue to exercise regularly, adds Church, your muscle cells become more sensitive to insulin, meaning less insulin is required to usher glucose into those cells. In addition, research has found that during exercise, your muscles take glucose out of your blood through a second pathway that does not require insulin. Add these two effects together, and if you are taking insulin or one of the medicines that promote insulin secretion, regular exercise may lead to a reduction in your medication.

The Weight Loss Advantage
Getting to and maintaining a healthy weight is key to preventing and managing type 2 diabetes. Studies show that dropping a mere 7 percent of your body weight significantly improves your body’s ability to regulate glucose, reducing your risk for diabetes by 58%. Research also shows that if you have type 2 diabetes, losing as little as 5-10% of your weight can help you lessen complications by improving glucose control, blood pressure and lipid levels.

The Best Exercise
“Certainly any physical activity benefits diabetes management,” says Church, “But best results are achieved if you commit to both aerobic exercise and strength training.” Specifically, Church recommends 150 minutes a week (30 minutes on 5 days) of walking--100 minutes if you pick up the pace--plus at least two strength-training workouts a week, each lasting 20 to 25 minutes.

Are you crunched for time? Consider Curves. One 30-minute workout counts as cardio and strength training. It’s a twofer!

The Conversation with Your Doctor
Ready to get moving? Consult your physician first. It’s essential to have his or her approval before you begin an exercise program, but you also need to talk about strategies to prevent low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, during exercise, especially if you are taking insulin or medications that increase insulin secretion. Remember, physical activity burns glucose and lowers blood sugar. Most likely, your doctor will suggest an approach that includes monitoring your glucose levels and timing exercise and eating to keep blood sugar levels within a steady range.

She may also suggest carrying a snack with you during exercise sessions in case you begin to have symptoms of low blood sugar.

Remember, too, that both exercise and weight-loss improve your body’s sensitivity to insulin and its ability to manage glucose, so if you see your blood sugar levels dropping over time, as you begin to increase your physical activity and/or lose more weight, meet with your doctor to discuss whether your medication needs to be reduced.

And that’s something worth moving toward! Learn more about the Jenny Craig for type 2 program.

Related Content:
7 Facts You Need to Know about Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes: Know the Risk Factors
Weight Loss and Type 2 Diabetes

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