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Top 6 Diabetes Exercise Mistakes and How to Avoid Them


Physical activity can help prevent diabetes from beginning and progressing, so long as you do it smartly. Avoid these common mistakes in the gym for a safer, more effective workout.

With your doctor’s approval, no type of exercise is off limits — biking, walking, stair climbing, and lifting weights are all good ideas. But be open to trial and error to see what your body responds to best, and avoid these six exercise mistakes:

1. Not Testing Blood Sugar Beforehand

Knowing your blood sugar level before starting exercise is crucial. The American Council on Exercise recommends avoiding working out if your glucose levels are 250 milligrams per deciliter or greater and ketosis is present, or greater than 300 mg/dL without ketosis.

2. Skipping Water Breaks

Dehydration, which people with diabetes are prone to, will cause your blood sugar levels to rise, Crandall says. Skip sports drinks, which are packed with sugar and carbohydrates, and bring a water bottle with you to the gym instead. Aim to drink 4 to 6 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes or whenever you’re thirsty.

3. Forgetting an Emergency Kit

Exercise helps the muscles handle glucose more effectively, which in turn lowers your blood sugar. That’s a good thing for most people with diabetes, but only if blood sugar levels don’t gettoo low. Bring a glucometer, insulin if you take fast-acting insulin, and quickly digested carbohydrate sources. A snack with 15 grams of carbohydrates, such as dried fruit, should also do the trick if you’re feeling lightheaded or weak.

4. Wearing Inappropriate Footwear

People with diabetes need to wear breathable socks and shoes that fit well to keep the feet protected. If you get a cut or a scrape, it may be harder for you to heal that area because your blood sugar is higher and you have decreased circulation down there. Wearing shoes that are comfortable and fit well is not only going to help you be more physically active every day, but will protect you from potentially getting a cut or a scrape that doesn’t heal. This is especially crucial in the summer months because your feet might be soft and prone to cuts after you work out in the pool, so be sure to stash a pair of flip-flops nearby.

5. Ignoring What Your Body Is Telling You

Regardless of whether you have diabetes, it’s important to listen to your body during a rigorous workout. Don’t go out of the gate too hard. If you feel dizzy, stop, recover, and start again when you’re feeling better.

6. Not Finding Something You Enjoy

The biggest mistake when it comes to exercise? Not doing it. Exercise is hard for some people to start, and for some people it’s really not something they look forward to. Your goal is to find an activity you love — so try out Zumba at your local gym, or enlist a friend to walk with you for 30 minutes each morning. That way you’re more socially entertained and not so focused on how much you hate exercise. If you enjoy it, you’ll be more likely to stick to it, and pairing that regular exercise with a healthy diet can help you better manage your diabetes. 

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