They say that exercise is medicine. It is a scientifically proven “prescription” for better health. Many also reported an improved quality of life. But what about blood sugar? Is there a connection between blood sugar and exercise? Can it help in the management of your A1c levels? These are great questions that I’ve been asked many times. Let’s jump into the role of exercise in blood sugar…
Does exercise lower blood sugar?
The short answer to this question is yes. It isn’t the only factor involved, but one of many. First and foremost is diet. Exercise falls under the category of lifestyle. So how does exercise lower your blood sugar levels? Let’s get into the nitty gritty.
Exercise and blood sugar
According to the American Diabetes Association, physical activity affects your blood sugar levels. This depends on how long you’re active, what activity or exercise you’re engaged in, as well as other factors. In fact, physical activity can lower your blood sugar levels up to 24 hours after you workout. It does this by making your body more sensitive to insulin. If you’re diabetic or otherwise checking your blood sugar levels regularly, you will be able to see how exercise impacts you specifically. This will require that you measure your blood sugar levels before exercise or physical activity, as well as afterwards to see what the difference is. You will find that different activities will have different effects on your body. Understanding your own patterns can help you keep your blood sugar levels from getting too low. This can be an issue for some.
Low blood sugar is a condition known as hypoglycemia that can be dangerous. A fasting blood sugar level of 70 mg/dL or lower is a tip off that you might be hypoglycemic, although these numbers may vary from person to person. Common symptoms of low blood sugar include: pale skin, shakiness, sweating, headaches, hunger or nausea, a fast or irregular heartbeat, fatigue, irritability or anxiety, difficulty concentrating, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, tingling or numbness of your lips, tongue or cheeks. As hypoglycemia gets worse, signs and symptoms may include: confusion, unusual behavior, or both; loss of your coordination, slurred speech, tunnel vision or blurry vision, and nightmares. When hypoglycemia becomes severe, it could result in unresponsiveness, or a loss of consciousness and even seizures! This is why it’s just as important to avoid low blood sugar.
How to raise your blood sugar
Treatment for hypoglycemia involves raising your blood sugar through ingestion of a high-sugar food or drink. If that doesn’t work or if you have symptoms of hypoglycemia despite not being diabetic, then it’s time to speak to seek immediate medical attention.
This is your brain on exercise
In addition to lowering your blood sugar levels, exercise has other great benefits. Exercise can also improve your brain health. Benefits include reduced short-term feelings and decreased anxiety in adults. It can also help you keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills strong as you get older. Physical activity can also reduce your risks for depression and anxiety, as well as helping you to sleep better.
Most people associate exercise with weight loss. Before I tell you how it helps you to lose weight, I’d like to put it in its proper context. You can’t out exercise diet. That is, what you eat and drink has a lot more impact on your weight than only exercising. A good rule of thumb is that weight loss is about 80% diet and 20% exercise. But, despair not. Exercise is a great way to help you lose weight and to keep it off.
Types of exercises
Regular aerobic activities can increase the number of calories you burn and help you shed body fat. Strength training helps you to maintain and build muscle. It also helps to keep your metabolism from slowing down when you lose fat. These 2 types of exercises go hand in hand. If you’re unsure of where to start, then seeking out a personal trainer might not be a bad idea. While it is an investment, it’s an investment in yourself. It’s better to do exercises with proper form than to going it alone and risk hurting yourself if you’re new to it.
Reducing health risks
Did you know that stroke and heart disease are the 2 leading causes of death in the US? Getting 150 minutes (2 and a half hours) of exercise per week can decrease your risk for these conditions. Even more physical activity will further decrease your risks. In fact, regular exercise will help lower your blood pressure, as well as improving your cholesterol levels.
Exercising on a regular basis decreases your risk for developing a few common cancers. These include cancers of the: bladder, breast, colon, endometrium (uterus), esophagus (throat), kidney, lung, and stomach.
Stronger muscles and bones
As you get older, protecting your muscles, joints and bones is important. They not only help you move, but they also support your body. Muscle-strengthening exercises can help you to increase or maintain both your strength and muscle mass. This is particularly important if you’re older and have noticed reduced muscle mass and muscle strength. Taking care of your muscles and bones allows you to carry out normal activities of daily living, such as climbing stairs, going shopping, getting around, etc. It also helps to decrease your risk of falling, a common occurrence if you’re older and aren’t in good shape.
Managing chronic health conditions and disabilities
If you already have a chronic health condition or disability, then physical activity can help. For example, exercise can help you to reduce pain, lift your mood, and improve the quality of your life if you suffer from arthritis.
Some disabilities may make physical activity more challenging. Fortunately, modifications can be made to most exercises. For instance, there’s a variation of yoga known as chair yoga that can be done sitting in a chair. You can still benefit from an exercise even when you can’t do it to its full extent. This is where a trainer is also beneficial. He or she can help you make appropriate modifications that you might not be aware of.
Who doesn’t want to live forever? Well, maybe not forever, but for a long time, and in good health of course. Think about this for a moment: you’re more likely to live longer when you exercise regularly, even a little. About 110,000 deaths could be prevented each year just by doing this. Exercise will help you increase both the quantity and quality of your life.
In short, exercise can do so much more than lower your blood sugar levels. While it does take time to do exercise, that time is an investment in more time and a better life. Over the years, I’ve heard many people say they’d like to exercise. Not having enough time, energy or knowing how to best exercise are the excuses I hear the most. However, for all of those who do exercise, I’ve yet to hear someone say that he or she regretted exercising.
How has exercise affected your health? Please tell us in the comments below…