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Utilize These Workouts To Manage Diabetes Without Medications

We understand that maintaining regular physical activity is crucial for overall well-being and provides numerous physical and psychological health advantages. However, if you suffer from diabetes, do metabolic conditions like type 1 and type 2 diabetes impact the type of workouts you should engage in and how you should structure your exercise regimen?

To get insights on exercise for managing diabetes, we had a discussion with Danine Fruge, MD, ABFP, who serves as the medical director at Pritikin Longevity Center.

What advantages does exercise offer for individuals with diabetes?

Physical activity is advantageous for all adults, including those with diabetes. “Exercise provides various crucial benefits for diabetes such as enhancing insulin sensitivity, improving blood sugar regulation, promoting muscle growth, reducing body fat, enhancing bone and muscle strength, enhancing balance and flexibility, reducing triglycerides and blood pressure, lowering the risk of cardiovascular complications like heart attack, stroke, and dementia,” explains Dr. Fruge.

What are the most effective methods to utilize exercise for diabetes management?

When fitness professionals discuss planning workout routines, they often refer to the FITT principle, which stands for frequency, intensity, time, and type. These four aspects define the structure of your workouts within your fitness routine to maximize efficacy.

Frequency denotes how regularly you exercise, intensity indicates the level of effort in your workout, time represents the duration of your training sessions, and type signifies the kind of exercise you engage in, such as jogging, brisk walking, strength training, yoga, etc.

Dr. Fruge emphasizes that for diabetes management through exercise, the most critical factor in programming is frequency—strive to be as consistent as possible with your exercise regimen.

“Daily workouts are ideal, but avoid missing two consecutive days. Aim for a minimum of 15 minutes per day. At the Pritikin Longevity Center, we recommend walking or light exercise for 15 minutes after each meal or snack,” she suggests. “We endorse two exercise sessions per day, in the morning and evening, which yields remarkable health benefits like reducing blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, as well as enhancing energy, mood, and mental acuity.”

Dr. Fruge mentions that intensity is less crucial, particularly initially. “Begin at a slow pace,” she recommends.

Which types of exercises are most beneficial for diabetes?

Regarding the most effective form of exercise for individuals with diabetes, Dr. Fruge suggests that your exercise regimen should include a variety of exercises, similar to what is recommended for individuals without metabolic disorders.

She recommends adopting a hybrid training approach: “Incorporating activities that build muscle alongside cardio/aerobic activities provides the greatest benefits for long-term blood sugar management, healthy body composition, and weight.”

The encouraging news is that regardless of the type of diabetes you have, you should not feel constrained in the types of exercises you can engage in as long as your diabetes is effectively managed.

“If your diabetes is well-regulated and you don’t have significant complications, you can enjoy all forms of exercise,” she asserts. “I partnered with a fit, well-controlled type 1 diabetic in Division I college tennis doubles who knew exactly how to perform well. Additionally, I participated in the Disney marathon with a diverse group of diabetics of various ages and types who completed the 26.2 miles without issues.”

Moreover, Dr. Fruge mentions that the type of diabetes you have does not restrict the types of exercise you can partake in, provided your condition is under control and you do not have severe complications like organ damage.

Are there specific exercises that individuals with diabetes should avoid?

While there is considerable freedom in choosing exercises for individuals with well-managed diabetes, Dr. Fruge indicates that precautions should be taken for diabetics with uncontrolled blood sugar levels or residual issues from the condition.

“It’s advisable for diabetics with uncontrolled blood sugar, uncontrolled hypertension, moderate to severe heart problems, and/or conditions like peripheral neuropathy to steer clear of strenuous, high-intensity, isometric exercises,” notes Dr. Fruge. “Those with retinopathy should avoid exercises involving head-down positions.”

Although there are not many exercises involving hanging the head down, if you have retinopathy—a diabetes complication affecting the eyes—you may need to exercise caution with certain yoga inversions or stretches that involve bending forward from the hips. Additionally, exercises like deadlifts in strength training may not be suitable.

Are dietary considerations important for individuals with diabetes engaging in exercise?

Especially for individuals with type 1 diabetes, it is crucial to be adequately nourished before working out with the correct nutrients to regulate glucose release into your bloodstream.

“A type 1 diabetic should consume carbohydrates like fruits, oatmeal, or sweet potatoes along with fiber from low-starch veggies, beans, or proteins to stabilize blood sugar levels, especially during cardiovascular workouts,” advises Dr. Fruge. “At The Pritikin Longevity Center, we provide fresh, delectable fruit and veggie cups at the gym entrance to encourage participants to pair fruits with veggies, as fruits alone can rapidly elevate blood sugar but may not sustain throughout the workout.”

She also recommends using wearable technology like continuous blood glucose monitoring systems to receive real-time feedback, guiding your workout plans and pre-exercise nutrition for optimizing the safety and efficacy of exercising with diabetes.

Dr. Fruge mentions that the nutritional and fueling considerations before a workout differ slightly for individuals with type 2 diabetes.

“Type 2 diabetics can follow the same guidelines; however, for those interested in weight loss and well-controlled diabetes, consuming low-starch vegetables like celery with carrots, cucumber, peppers, jicama, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, etc., without fruits or starchy carbs before a workout can be beneficial,” recommends Dr. Fruge. “[For] intense or lengthy workouts, or for diabetics on hypoglycemic medications such as sulfonylureas or insulin, adding a healthy starch before a workout may offer benefits.”

If you are diabetic and have exercise-related concerns, consult your doctor or endocrinologist for tailored suggestions to kickstart a healthy workout routine. Starting to exercise with diabetes can initially seem daunting, but Dr. Fruge believes the benefits can be transformative for both your physical and mental well-being.

“Over my 20 years of working with patients, I have witnessed not just remission but also the reversal of type 2 diabetes, and I have seen many type 1 diabetics without long-term complications [largely due to their physical activity routines], a sight I rarely encountered in a hospital setting.”

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