Susan B. Sloane, BS, RPh, CDE, has been a registered pharmacist for more than 20 years and a Certified Diabetes Educator for more than 15 years. Her two sons were diagnosed with diabetes, and since then, she has been dedicated to promoting wellness and optimal outcomes as a patient advocate, information expert, educator, and corporate partner.
Every New Year’s, I make a resolution to exercise regularly. And I doubt I'm alone.
So, what happens? How do those good intentions go by the wayside every year?
For me, I think the word exercise conjures up a ghastly image of sweat pouring down my brow and me running on a treadmill, thinking, "When will it be done?" And if you think of exercise like that, you will use every excuse in your playbook of excuses NOT to do it.
It’s our perception of what we do that means everything. The mind is a very powerful tool. So, the first trick is thinking about how to change your way of thinking. Remember that doing what you love as long as you keep moving—no need even to call it exercise—will help keep you healthy.
The benefits of different types of exercise
Is it more beneficial to run or lift weights? The truth is that both types of exercise are beneficial and strengthen different areas.
Cardio will strengthen your heart muscle; resistance or strength training will build other muscles depending on the areas you work, such as abdominals, arms, legs, etc. The awesome thing about building muscle with weight or resistance training is that muscle utilizes sugars efficiently. That means—you guessed it—better blood sugar control and oftentimes less insulin resistance.
Combine the two types of exercise in a regular routine for maximum effectiveness.
According to a small study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, previously sedentary people with type 2 diabetes who did aerobic exercise some days and resistance training on others had lower blood sugar levels after nine months than people who only did one of the types of training.
Additionally, resistance and strength training have been shown to be particularly effective in reigning in high blood sugars because they increase your metabolic rate for days afterward. Increased muscle mass translates to a higher baseline metabolism. So, while you don’t need to be Schwarzenegger, a little muscle could go a long way. Most of all be patient because your strength and improved blood sugar control will come over time.
Tips for starting cardio and strength training
Remember: You don’t need a treadmill to get in a cardio workout. A good cardiac-based workout will put your heart rate at 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. Your healthcare team will determine what a “safe” heart rate is for you to get up to; everyone is different depending on cardiac status, previous heart attack, or other issues. A basic calculation you can use to estimate your target exercise heart rate is 220 minus your age.
Before starting any exercise program, it is important to consult your doctor to establish what is safe. Don't be discouraged if you can't make it to the gym every day. Instead, try to be active around the house or nearby. Walk the mall with friends, walk the dog, or simply try to keep moving for at least one hour.
With resistance training, it is essential that you are doing the exercise properly because poor technique can lead to serious injury. You should never just pick up weights and start lifting without proper instruction on how to do an exercise. If you are not used to working out, you need to start out slow. See if a local gym has a free class on how to use the equipment or purchase a session with a personal trainer who can show you some basic moves.
Lastly, you need to test blood sugars frequently when starting an exercise routine to avoid hypoglycemia. More frequent snacking and a medication adjustment may sometimes be necessary.
Stay safe and be strong!