How Much Exercise Can Lower Blood Sugar?

Navigating the twists and turns to sidestep or reverse pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes might seem like a Herculean task. But here’s a little secret just between us: incorporating exercise into your daily life is nothing short of a miracle move for regaining control over your health. In this article, I’ll strip away the confusion around what exercise is best, how much to get, and give you tips to sprinkle a little joy into making it a seamless part of your daily routine, especially if you’re cruising through life aiming to age like fine wine and keep those meds at bay. Managing your blood sugar need not be a grueling grind – I’m all about making it both doable and delightfully fun!

Exercise & Blood Sugar: The Inside Scoop

Let’s dive into some exciting findings about diabetes prevention, backed by solid research. The DPP trial, a groundbreaking study, showed that intensive lifestyle changes can significantly slash the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by a whopping 58% over three years (1).

But here’s the real kicker – this reduction isn’t just short-lived. Follow-ups from other extensive studies reinforce the effectiveness of lifestyle interventions in preventing diabetes over the long haul. For instance, the Da Qing study demonstrated a remarkable 39% decrease in diabetes risk over 30 years (4), while the Finnish DPS showed a 43% reduction over seven years (2). Not to mention, the U.S. Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study (DPPOS) revealed a sustained 34% reduction over 10 years and a 27% reduction over 15 years (6)(7)!

Now, let’s break down what these lifestyle interventions entail. The DPP focused on two primary goals: achieving and maintaining a minimum of 7% weight loss and engaging in 150 minutes of physical activity per week, akin to brisk walking (3). While weight loss takes the spotlight for reducing diabetes risk, hitting the activity target alone can cut the incidence of type 2 diabetes by a remarkable 44%, even without reaching the weight loss goal (8). Movement is powerful!

In essence, these findings highlight the power of lifestyle changes in preventing diabetes in the long run. Exercise is your secret weapon in managing and preventing diabetes (9)(10). Movement – be it an intense Orange Theory class or a leisurely walk –  will boost your body’s insulin sensitivity and keep those sugar levels in check. There are two main players in the game:

  • Resistance Training: Think lifting weights or tug-of-war with resistance bands. This isn’t about bulking up; it’s about fortifying your insulin sensitivity and giving high blood sugar the boot. (5)
  • Aerobic Exercise: This doesn’t have to be sweaty, heart-pumping, breath-catching stuff – walking, cycling, splashing around in the pool counts as well! These activities help shuttle glucose into your muscles, using it up as fuel instead of letting it loiter in your bloodstream. If you like to go high intensity, by all means go for it, taking into account what your body is ready for and building from there. 

The Key to Fitness: Start with What You Love

Here’s the scoop – the exercise that works best is the one that makes you smile. If the thought of hitting the gym fills you with dread, ditch it. Dance in your living room, take a nature walk, or play tag with your dog. Movement is movement, and it’s all fabulous for fending off diabetes.

If you’ve never exercised or it’s been awhile, remember that slow and steady wins the race. Ease into it, and gradually notch up the intensity. It’s all about making exercise feel like a treat, not a chore. Step away from your desk and reclaim some time to yourself to ease stress and keep your body healthy! But take it easy – if you begin with what you used to do or think you can do, you set yourself up for an injury at worst or get derailed because it takes you three days to get up off the toilet normally. It’s not worth it in the long run! Let’s agree to leave the “No Pain, No Gain” mantra in the dusty annals of the ’80s, shall we?

Tailoring Your Exercise Plan

Variety is the spice of life, and it’s no different when it comes to exercising. Aim to blend aerobic activities with some resistance training to keep things spicy and get the best of both worlds. Below are the current guidelines:

  • Aerobic Exercise: Target for 150 minutes of moderate action or 75 minutes of something more vigorous each week, and spread out to keep you fresh. Leisurely movement like a walk after dinner will lower your blood sugar more quickly than if you sit on the couch and log in to Netflix, so grab the dog and head out for even 10-15 minutes!
  • Resistance Training: Slot in some strength sessions at least twice a week. If you hate the gym, do a bodyweight exercises like squats, wall sits, calf raises, push-ups off the coffee table, or 15-30 minutes of some kind of weight-bearing activity. 

Always listen to your body and tweak your plan to suit you. And yup, checking in with a healthcare provider before shaking up your routine is a smart move, especially if you’ve got existing health issues.

Why is my post-exercise blood sugar high?

Here’s a quirky fact: your blood sugar might spike right after a workout, especially if you’ve been pushing the limits. But here’s the kicker – it’s totally normal!! Your body’s just dipping into its sugar stash to power your exercise. No stress, it’s a fleeting thing. If you are wearing a CGM you might panic when you see your blood sugar post-exercise, but I assure you this is normal as your body pulls stored sugar out of the liver and muscles to be at the ready for higher intensity movement. It returns to baseline in 30-90 minutes. Leisurely movement like a walk after dinner will lower your blood sugar more quickly than if you sit on the couch and log in to Netflix, so grab the dog and head out for even 10-15 minutes!

Deep Dive with VIBRANCE

Hungry for more? We’ve got the goods. Check out our deep dives into reversing pre-diabetes, battling insulin resistance, and tailoring your nutrition and fitness to stride towards health. 

Fancy a chat to get clarity on solutions that will work with you? Book an appointment and let’s get personal with your wellness plan.

Wrapping It Up

Stepping into an active lifestyle is a bold move towards dodging diabetes. Find joy in your fitness journey, and remember, it’s all about making those health gains in a way that lights you up. At VIBRANCE, we’re all about walking this path with you, sprinkling a little fun and a lot of support along the way.

References:

  1. Knowler, William C et al. “Reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes with lifestyle intervention or metformin.” The New England journal of medicine vol. 346,6 (2002): 393-403. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa012512
  2. Lindström, Jaana et al. “Sustained reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes by lifestyle intervention: follow-up of the Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study.” Lancet (London, England) vol. 368,9548 (2006): 1673-9. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(06)69701-8
  3. Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) Research Group. “The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP): description of lifestyle intervention.” Diabetes care vol. 25,12 (2002): 2165-71. doi:10.2337/diacare.25.12.2165
  4. Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group et al. “10-year follow-up of diabetes incidence and weight loss in the Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study.” Lancet (London, England) vol. 374,9702 (2009): 1677-86. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(09)61457-4
  5. Strasser B, Pesta D. Resistance training for diabetes prevention and therapy: experimental findings and molecular mechanisms. Biomed Res Int. 2013;2013:805217. doi: 10.1155/2013/805217. Epub 2013 Dec 22. PMID: 24455726; PMCID: PMC3881442.
  6. Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group et al. “10-year follow-up of diabetes incidence and weight loss in the Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study.” Lancet (London, England) vol. 374,9702 (2009): 1677-86. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(09)61457-4
  7. Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group. “Long-term effects of lifestyle intervention or metformin on diabetes development and microvascular complications over 15-year follow-up: the Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study.” The lancet. Diabetes & endocrinology vol. 3,11 (2015): 866-75. doi:10.1016/S2213-8587(15)00291-0
  8. Hamman, Richard F et al. “Effect of weight loss with lifestyle intervention on risk of diabetes.” Diabetes care vol. 29,9 (2006): 2102-7. doi:10.2337/dc06-0560
  9. Hrubeniuk, Travis J et al. “The ability of exercise to meaningfully improve glucose tolerance in people living with prediabetes: A meta-analysis.” Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports vol. 30,2 (2020): 209-216. doi:10.1111/sms.13567
  10. Pan, Bei et al. “Exercise training modalities in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and network meta-analysis.” The international journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity vol. 15,1 72. 25 Jul. 2018, doi:10.1186/s12966-018-0703-3
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