Physical activity is a general term describing movement that increases energy expenditure.
Exercise is defined as a subset of physical activity including cardiovascular, strength, balance, and flexibility training done to improve physical fitness. Both play a role in diabetes management. Exercise has been shown to reduce cardiovascular risk factors, improve blood glucose control, contribute to weight loss, and improve well-being.
Physical activity is as important for those with type 1 diabetes as it is for the general population. A health-related fitness program is a primary part of diabetes self-management, particularly for those with type 2 diabetes. Physical activity is beneficial to reduce insulin resistance in women with gestational diabetes. The role of physical activity in preventing diabetes complications and controlling blood glucose is not as clear as for research with those who have type 1 diabetes.
There are important variables to consider before implementing an exercise regimen. Do not start an exercise regimen without your health care team’s approval and guidance. Key considerations include:
- Whether there is a potential for hypoglycemia with the prescribed medication and meal pattern.
- How physical activity affects blood glucose.
- Whether blood glucose measurements need to be taken prior to physical activity.
- How to modify physical activity around diabetes complications or other limitations.
An exercise regimen should be individualized around your age, overall health status, type of diabetes and medications.