Joslin Answers Your Questions

Joslin Diabetes Center experts answer commonly asked questions about diabetes monitoring, treatment, self-care, meal planning, and more.
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Topic: Exercise and Fitness
Question: I know that it's important to be physically active, but I'm pretty active at work and at home. Isn't that enough?

Answer: It's great that you're so active during your day. Physical activity, which refers to any activity you do to move your body (walking, yard work, climbing stairs), is very important when it comes to diabetes management. Physical activity lowers blood glucose levels by improving the body's ability to use both glucose and insulin. And many people find that with regular physical activity, they can lower the amount of diabetes pills or insulin that they take.

There are other reasons to be physically active, too—for example, physical activity is crucial for preventing heart disease and for helping people lose and maintain their weight. Stress and depression can often be controlled with regular activity, too.

Exercise refers to specific activities that are done for the purposes of becoming more fit—including jogging, using weights, doing calisthenics, and jumping rope. An ideal exercise program involves a combination of aerobic exercise, resistance training, and flexibility exercise.

Ask yourself this about your current physical activity regimen: Is the physical activity I'm doing helping me to meet my health goals? For example, if you're trying to lose weight or trying to lower your blood glucose levels, you may need to increase the amount of time you spend being physically active. Generally, the goal for most people with diabetes is to aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity at least five times a week. You don't necessarily have to do all 30 minutes at once; you can do 10 minutes of activity, three times a day. However, if your goal is to lose weight or maintain your weight, research shows that 60 to 90 minutes of activity most days of the week is needed.

If you want to be more active, consider some of these ideas:
  • Join a gym.
  • Think about activities you can do while having fun at the same time—tennis, golf, a game of catch, walking your favorite pooch, for example.
  • Sign up for dancing lessons, or try something new, such as a yoga or tai chi class.
  • Enlist a friend to go walking with you—you can help keep each other motivated.
  • Think about finding ways to increase activity in your daily life: Climb stairs at work instead of taking the elevator. Walk over to your coworker's office to ask a question, rather than sending an e-mail. Every little bit counts!

Remember to check with your healthcare provider to make sure it's safe for you to start being more active.

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