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Keeping the blood sugar levels within a healthy range is crucial to avoid serious long-term health complications. According to health experts, people with high blood sugar levels are at an increased risk of experiencing heart diseases, vision loss, nerve damage, and kidney disease.
Exercise plays a key role in maintaining blood sugar levels. During exercise, muscle cells take up glucose (sugar in the bloodstream) and use it for energy. Regular exercise also helps improve insulin sensitivity i.e., muscle cells become more efficient at using insulin to take up glucose.
Broadly, there are two main types of exercise - aerobic and anaerobic. Both these types of exercise can help manage blood sugar levels via different ways.
Aerobic exercises, which speed up heart rate and breathing, are immensely beneficial in regulating blood sugar levels. These exercises help lower blood sugar levels up to 24 hours after the workout. Over time, aerobic exercises help increase insulin sensitivity, enhancing the body’s ability to process glucose even while resting.
Brisk walking is a simple aerobic activity that involves walking at a speed of at least 100 steps/minute. It can help both healthy individuals and type 2 diabetics maintain lower blood sugar levels. Fitness experts recommend going for a brisk 30-minute walk five days a week for best results.
Cycling is a low-impact aerobic exercise that can help lower sugar levels while minimizing strain on the joints. It is ideal for people with joint pain and arthritis. According to a study, cycling at a moderate pace for an hour can help overweight diabetics halve their blood sugar levels over the following 24 hours.
Swimming is another joint-friendly aerobic exercise for people with high blood sugar levels. The aquatic activity can help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and help manage blood sugar levels in people with Type 2 and gestational diabetes. Moreover, swimming can increase insulin sensitivity and contribute to maintaining a healthy weight.
Dancing is a great full-body aerobic exercise that offers multiple health benefits. Besides lowering blood sugar levels, it helps promote weight loss, improve memory, increase flexibility, and reduce stress. People with limited physical activity can consider chair dancing, which incorporates the use of a chair, for good support.
Anaerobic exercise can be described as any short-duration and high-intensity physical activity that breaks down glucose for energy without using oxygen. Like aerobic exercise, anaerobic burns calories and improves insulin sensitivity and blood glucose management. They can also enhance muscle strength and mass.
Weight training is an anaerobic exercise that uses weights for resistance. These exercises enable muscles to become stronger. Weight training helps improve muscle mass that makes it easier to use more blood sugar for energy. These exercises also increase insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is an anaerobic exercise that involves short bursts of intense exercise alternated with low-intensity recovery periods. According to research, HIIT is the most effective form of exercise for reducing type-2 diabetes risk. It is associated with lowering blood glucose levels to healthy levels.
Sprinting is one of the most effective anaerobic exercises for diabetes prevention. According to some studies, a few minutes of intense sprinting a week is as good as 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day for reducing an individual’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Jumping rope is a great exercise for burning calories and building muscle. The exercise can help people with diabetes control blood sugar as they lose weight. Besides lowering sugar levels, it can also bring blood pressure and cholesterol under control, both of which are risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
People with type 1 diabetes who take insulin or insulin secretagogues are at risk for hypoglycemia (very low blood sugar levels) if the insulin dose or carbohydrate intake is not adjusted with exercise. Such individuals should check their blood sugar levels before any physical activity to prevent hypoglycemia.