Why diabetes and exercise go hand in hand

Saravanan "Sharu" Hariram

July 10, 2019

With India being named the diabetes capital of the world, it’s time for us to take charge of our health. The best way to do this – yes, for diabetes patients as well – is exercise.

In our experience, people with diabetes who exercise regularly are able to follow a more normal diet than patients who don’t, have better blood sugar levels, and are often advised by their doctors to reduce medication—all within 3-6 months of starting on an exercise routine.

Diabetic patients, however, must be cautious while working out in the gym since they run the risk of turning hypoglycaemic. We, therefore, advise them to measure their blood sugar levels before and after exercise and keep their doctors in the loop.

What exercises should diabetics do?

The following exercises can help control blood sugar levels and improve the quality of life of diabetes patients:

  1. Stationary cycling

    This is recommended for diabetic patients starting out on training. Since diabetic patients tend to develop foot rashes, cycling is preferred over exercises like walking or jogging. Cycling is what we call a “non-impact” workout.Stationary cycling

  1. Walking 

    Walking, either on a treadmill or in the open, is helpful in controlling diabetes but patients must remember to wear proper footwear. Diabetic footwear, easily available in the market, has extra cushioning for the feet to prevent rashes.

  1. Strength exercises

    This is extremely important for diabetic patients. Diabetes causes the muscles in the body to become resistant to insulin, which does not allow them to process calories. Strength training increases muscle sensitivity to insulin as a result of which they are able to burn calories better. Include squats, push-ups and lunges in your workout.Strength exercises

  1. Flexibility exercises

    Diabetes patients often lose sensitivity of the lower body, leading to greater chances of accidents like tripping and falling (foot neuropathy). Flexibility exercises can help address such problems. Try total body stretches.

  1. Yoga

    Yoga is great for diabetes since along with fitness benefits it also resets hormone levels in the body. Asanas that massage theinternal organs are particularly helpful in this regard. Try Marichyasana, Ardha Matsyendrasana and

Keep in mind

While diabetes patients can do all those exercises which normal people can, there are certain things they must bear in mind.

  • They must avoid high-intensity workouts as they deplete blood glucose levels faster and stick to low or moderate intensity training instead.
  • As far as strength exercises are concerned, they should ideally be in the range of 15-20 repetitions.
  • A proper warm-up and cool-down routine are vital.
  • They must avoid exercises that require sudden changes in body position.Saravanan Hariram and Pragya Bhatt

It is important to watch out for signs of hypoglycaemia in the patient during a workout session. Symptoms include low energy levels, increased sweating, incoherent speech, shivering, breathlessness and lack of body coordination. Diabetics must keep a source of simple sugar like candy or a glucose drink handy. A fitness coach trained in handling diabetes patients is aware of the signs of hypoglycaemia and can advise a suitable remedy.

About the Author

Saravanan “Sharu” Hariram is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer with a passion for bodybuilding. Combining his love for fitness with his career, Sharu did his certification in Sports Nutrition, and Rehabilitation and Healing Nutrition. Currently a Master Trainer with HealthifyMe, he specializes in Weight Management, Marathon Training, and Physical Rehabilitation. In his 20+ years of experience, Sharu has always maintained that one’s mind must have control over their body in order to lead a healthy life. At HealthifyMe, he continues to follow his passion while helping those around him realise their fitness goals.

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