Are you tired of dealing with high blood sugar levels? Exercise may be the answer you’ve been looking for! Not only does exercise lower blood sugar, but it can also lower our blood pressure, enhance weight loss, reduce stress, promote healthy heart and lungs, and much more.
In this article, we’ll explore the link between exercise and blood sugar levels as well as some tips for incorporating physical activity into your routine.
What is Blood Sugar?
Blood sugar, or glucose, is the main type of sugar in your blood. It’s a major energy source for your body and comes from the food you eat.
Once you consume certain food or drink, the carbohydrates therein get broken down to release glucose, which is then absorbed into the bloodstream.
At any given time, your body should only contain about 4 grams of glucose in circulation. However, this can change quickly, depending on what you’ve eaten and how active you are.
A carbohydrate-rich food will result in more glucose in the blood. Luckily the pancreas can detect this, so it will start to secret insulin, a hormone that helps move glucose from the blood into your cells.
When there isn’t enough insulin or the insulin isn’t working properly, too much glucose stays in your blood. Over time, high blood sugar can lead to conditions such as type 2 diabetes, which may result in problems with your heart, eyes, kidneys, nerves, gums, and teeth.
On the other hand, if your blood sugar level gets too low, you may feel shaky, dizzy, or lightheaded. You may also have trouble concentrating. So having proper glucose regulation is important for normal bodily functions.
Besides exercise, other things you can do to improve your glucose levels include eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and managing stress effectively.
How Does Exercise Lower Blood Sugar?
As mentioned above, exercise is essential for promoting proper blood glucose regulation, but how exactly does it do that?
1. Exercise can boost metabolism
Metabolism is the process by which your body converts the food you eat into energy. This energy is then used to power your body’s vital functions, including heart rate, breathing, and cell growth and repair.
Your metabolism can be determined by a number of factors, including your age, gender, muscle-to-fat ratio, and activity level.
Physical activity can boost metabolism by increasing the calories you burn during exercise. Research even shows that your body can continue to burn calories even at rest after the activity.
When your metabolism is high, your body is better able to process glucose and use it for energy. This helps to keep your blood sugar levels from spikes and dips throughout the day.
2. Exercise can increase insulin sensitivity
Exercise can increase insulin sensitivity, which is the body’s ability to use insulin to regulate blood sugar levels.
When the body is more sensitive to insulin, it can better control blood sugar levels after eating.
This is especially beneficial for people with diabetes, as it can help to prevent spikes in blood sugar levels.
According to research, a single bout of moderately intense activity can boost insulin sensitivity and increase glucose uptake by up to 40%.
According to the study, insulin sensitivity increased for up to 120 minutes after the exercise, while increased glucose uptake lasted for up to 16 hours.
This clearly shows that staying consistently active can be very effective in improving insulin sensitivity and maintaining low blood sugar levels.
3. Exercise can build muscles
Exercise is one of the most effective ways to build muscle. When you exercise, your muscles are put under stress, which forces them to adapt and grow.
And when you build muscles, you increase the amount of insulin-sensitive tissue in your body. This makes it easier for your body to regulate blood sugar levels and lowers your risk of developing diabetes-related complications.
Building muscles also causes your body to burn more calories at the same body weight than if you had less muscles. This increased caloric burn helps to regulate blood sugar levels and keep them in a healthy range.
In addition, the growing muscle tissues are more sensitive to insulin, which means your body can better use insulin to lower blood sugar levels.
In a 10 year study, women engaging in strength training activities had a 30% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who didn’t perform the exercise.
In addition to improving blood sugar control, building muscle has a number of other health benefits. It can help decrease abdominal fat, lower your risk of falls, reduce your risk of heart disease, and lower blood pressure. It can also help you lose weight and improve your overall physical fitness.
4. Exercise can fight inflammation
Inflammation is a natural process that helps the body heal and protect itself from infection and injury.
When you get a cut or bruise, for example, inflammation causes swelling and redness at the site of the injury. This is because the small blood vessels in the tissue widen to increase blood flow to the site. This allows immune system cells to be carried to the injury site to help with the process of healing.
But sometimes, inflammation can become chronic, lasting for weeks, months, or even years. This can lead to health problems like heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes.
According to research, inflammation causes cell damage, which can induce insulin resistance and increase blood sugar levels. Inflammation can even damage the cells producing insulin, thus causing glucose to accumulate in the blood.
By decreasing the amount of inflammation in the body, exercise can minimize damage to the cells that produce insulin while promoting muscle cell insulin sensitivity, both of which can boost healthy blood glucose levels.
5. Exercise promotes weight loss
When you are overweight, your body has to work harder to process glucose, which can lead to high blood sugar staying in the blood. Losing weight can help improve your body’s insulin response and lower your blood sugar levels.
Besides, when you weigh less, the pancreas can meet your insulin requirements more easily.
Losing weight has been shown to improve blood glucose levels in people with diabetes. In one study, people with type 2 diabetes who lost 5-10% of their body weight had significant improvements in their blood glucose levels.
Best exercises to lower blood sugar:
There are many different exercises that can lower blood sugar, but some exercises are better than others. Here are the best exercises to lower blood sugar:
Walking is a great way to lower blood sugar because it is a low-impact exercise that doesn’t put too much strain on your body. Plus, it’s easy to do, and you can do it anywhere. Just make sure to walk at a moderate pace for at least 30 minutes each day.
Swimming is another great exercise for lowering blood sugar levels. It can help improve insulin resistance and contribute to weight loss. Plus, swimming is a great workout for your whole body and can help improve your overall fitness level.
If you have diabetes, aim for one pull length or 25 meters in a standard pool, then rest for 30 seconds. You can also swim for 5 minutes and rest for 1 minute. Repeat these sessions until you reach 30 minutes in total.
Remember to increase your distance and resting time with each session. Do this three times a week for better results.
Cycling is a great way to get your heart rate up and improve your insulin sensitivity. The more you cycle, the more energy you expend, causing your blood sugar levels to fall.
Research shows cycling at a moderate pace for an hour can lower blood sugar levels in overweight people with diabetes by up to half over a period of 24 hours.
4. Strength Training
Strength training is another great exercise for lowering blood sugar because it helps build muscle, which in turn helps improve your insulin sensitivity. Plus, strength training can help you burn more calories even when you’re not working out. This can help with weight loss (another important factor in controlling blood sugar levels).
Do strength-training exercises at least twice per week.
5. High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a form of exercise that alternates between high-intensity bursts of activity and periods of active recovery or rest. HIIT has been shown to be an effective way to improve blood sugar control in both healthy individuals and those with diabetes.
According to research, HIIT increases glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes after 2 weeks of training. That being said, more research is needed to determine the safety of HIIT in diabetes. However, if you’re already engaging in vigorous activities, HIIT can be a great addition to your regime.
Potential Risks of Exercise on Blood Sugar:
1. Low blood sugar levels
If you take insulin or other diabetes medications that lower your blood sugar levels, exercise can cause your blood sugar to drop too low, a condition known as hypoglycemia, and it can be dangerous.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia include feeling shaky, sweating, having a fast heart rate, and feeling dizzy or lightheaded.
It’s important to check your blood sugar before and after exercising and to talk to your doctor about how much physical activity is safe for you.
2. High blood sugar
Exercise can increase blood sugar in diabetes because when you exercise, your muscles need more sugar for energy.
This triggers the release of hormones that tell the liver to release more sugar into the blood, which can cause the blood sugar to become too high.
Exercise also triggers the release of stress hormones like Cortisol and adrenaline, both of which can increase blood sugar.
To avoid these side effects, maintain your exercise at a moderate pace and avoid prolonged workouts.
In general, people with diabetes should aim for moderate-intensity aerobic exercise like walking or swimming for 30 minutes most days of the week.
Tips for Exercising When You Have Diabetes
First and foremost, always check with your doctor before starting or changing an exercise routine. This is especially important if you take insulin or other medications for your diabetes.
Your doctor can help you create an appropriate exercise plan that takes into account your overall health and fitness level.
You may also want to:
- Check your blood sugar levels before and after exercise. This will help you gauge how your body is responding to the physical activity.
- Drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise to prevent dehydration.
- Choose an activity that’s suitable for your fitness level and that you can enjoy and that fits into your schedule. This will help make exercise a regular part of your routine.
- If you’ll be out walking or jogging, wear a medical ID bracelet or necklace that says you have diabetes. This way, if you do have a hypoglycemic episode during your workout, others will know how to help you.
- Carry a fast-acting source of sugar with you in case your blood sugar does drop during exercise. This could be glucose tablets, hard candy, or fruit juice.
- Wear proper footwear. Diabetic shoes are designed to help protect your feet from the added stress of exercise. Be sure to wear them when working out.
- If you experience any symptoms of hypoglycemia during exercise—such as feeling shaky, dizzy, or confused—stop exercising immediately and check your blood sugar. If it is low, treat it with food or drink containing sugar, then retest after 15 minutes. If it is still low, call for help.
Exercise can definitely help lower blood sugar levels in both people with diabetes as well as those without it.
Regular physical activity has many other health benefits too, such as improved heart and lung health which could reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases.
However, if you are living with diabetes, it is important to note that the type of exercise you do, the duration of exercise, and how intense it is will all affect your results.
Therefore, speaking with a doctor or healthcare professional before starting any new exercise regimen is important.
With the right plan in place, though, regular physical activity can help manage your blood sugar levels and make sure you stay healthy for years to come.
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