Physical activity helps employees to manage and even reduce risk of diabetes

15 November 2022

As you’ve probably heard, many chronic diseases can be managed or outright prevented with physical activity. When it comes to diabetes, enabling employees to become more active through regular activity delivers a host of benefits.

Benefits of physical activity

Physical activity is effective at stabilizing blood glucose (sugar), which can help control or reduce their risk for diabetes. A common misconception is that exercise only has this effect when it causes a person to lose weight. While weight loss certainly helps to reduce glucose levels, physical activity also helps control blood glucose levels regardless of weight.

During physical activity, the body can take glucose out of the bloodstream without the use of insulin, the hormone that your body relies on to regulate blood sugar levels. Muscles need glucose to power their movement, so they take this glucose from the blood, which in turn helps to lower blood sugar. Over time, regular physical activity can increase muscle mass, which helps use even more glucose. Furthermore, strength training helps the body use insulin better.

The American Diabetes Association recommends a mix of both cardiovascular exercise and strength training for blood sugar control. Helpful cardiovascular exercises include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Jogging and/or running
  • Biking
  • Using machines like the elliptical or treadmill
  • Zumba and other aerobics

Regular physical activity can also help employees maintain a healthy body weight, which is recommended for everyone with or at risk for diabetes. In addition, those with prediabetes can lower chances of developing Type 2 diabetes by adding in more physical activity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states, “…being active makes your body more sensitive to insulin, which helps manage your diabetes.”

Make exercise a daily habit

For many employees, finding time in a busy schedule to exercise can be difficult. But there are small changes they can make to contribute to a more active life. For instance:

  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Using the bathroom on a different floor of the workspace
  • Taking small five-minute breaks throughout the workday to fit in strength training with smaller weights or resistance bands

No hand weights? No problem. Some strength-building exercises that don’t require equipment include planks, regular push-ups, wall push-ups and squats.

Insulin and physical activity: An important relationship

For employees on insulin, it is important they monitor blood glucose levels during and after physical activity. They may need to adjust their insulin dose or carbohydrate intake to prevent blood sugar from dropping too low. The American Diabetes Association’s 15-15 rule can also be used if blood sugar goes low.

As always, employees should talk to their healthcare provider before any sudden change in activity, especially with a chronic illness like diabetes.

Contact our team to learn all the ways we can help your employee population with diabetes prevention and management.

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