If you're one of the nearly 50% of Americans with diabetes or pre-diabetes, chances are you've heard the advice to exercise regularly: The science is clear that physical activity is an excellent way to help keep your blood sugar under control.
But now, research reveals even better news: You can tailor your workouts to target blood sugar and shed pounds. Make the most of your sweat sessions with these 3 guidelines.
1. Longer workouts aren't necessarily better, suggests recent research from Canada's University of Western Ontario. To compare long, steady efforts to short, intense bursts of activity, researchers asked people with type 2 diabetes to get 30 minutes of moderate exercise (65% of target heart rate) or to split up three 10-minute bouts of vigorous exercise (85% of target heart rate), 5 days a week for 3 months.
The result: The 10-minute workouts had a bigger impact on diabetes patients' health. They improved hemoglobin (a marker of blood sugar) levels by twice as much as the continuous exercisers. They also doubled their drop in LDL, or "bad," cholesterol while lowering body mass index (a measure of height versus weight) by three times as much.
Those assigned to the short-burst group also exercised longer on average, logging about 100 more minutes per month. "Shorter workouts are easier for people to fit into their schedules," explains lead researcher Avinash Pandey, an undergraduate student. However, even when the time exercised was the same, the benefits to short bursts still held up. One theory is that higher-intensity workouts burn more calories and fat, and that has a more dramatic effect on blood sugar.
2. Break Up Your Workouts
Spreading physical activity throughout the day may also help lower your blood sugar. "Sitting for extended periods is deleterious to health," says Pandey. In fact, a study published in the journal Diabetes Care found that people who sat for 5 hours after consuming a meal experienced a 24% greater spike in blood sugar, compared with those who got up every 20 minutes.
Adding more activity throughout your day can help prevent those spikes in blood sugar whether you do high-intensity sprints or a short stroll around the block. And the short-burst plan from Pandey's study—people ran for 10 minutes in the morning, afternoon, and at night—can also help control blood sugar, he says.
3. Work with Weights
Muscle is great for helping your body better regulate its blood sugar, and that's why your exercise regimen needs a strength-training component. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, people with type 2 diabetes who combined aerobic conditioning with strength training cut blood sugar by a third more (34%) than those who did aerobic exercise alone (24%). The weight training—performed twice a week—included one set of 10 to 12 repetitions of each of the following moves:
Leg curls (front and back)
Your diabetes exercise Rx: 5 days a week of three short-burst cardio sessions, and 2 days a week of strength training, one set each of nine exercises. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how little time this takes—and you'll love the results on your blood sugar and waistline!
These are just a few of many exercise routines that you can incorporate into your weekly routines to lose weight, get toned and fit but also get that blood sugar level down where it should be.
Remember exercise is just one component to helping someone with diabetes get their blood sugar levels down, the other key companion to exercise is also your diet. The two go hand in hand to get and keep your blood sugar at the levels your doctor requires it to be.
We will be following up this post with another that deals with menus that will help you with your diabetes.