Walking is considered to be a low impact activity which is easy to perform and needs no special equipment. This makes it one of the most common and admissible forms of exercise. It is very common for doctors to encourage diabetic patients to take up walking to keep their diabetes under control. The efficacy of walking to reduce blood glucose levels is beyond dispute as reported by various research studies across the world. In addition to lowering blood sugar levels, walking has many advantages including giving a boost in immune function and energy levels, promoting strong cardiovascular health, joint pain reduction, and weight management. In this article, we will discuss how a physical activity like walking supports diabetes management and in what ways this disease affects our health.
Effect Of Diabetes On Health
Diabetes is a chronic illness that affects our body’s capacity to make insulin, a hormone that facilitates glucose transformation into energy. Hence, when you have diabetes, our pancreas produces this hormone either too little or none at all, resulting in high levels of glucose in the blood and thus depriving our cells of the essential energy it requires. This can lead to major setbacks in our overall health, causing symptoms like fatigue, heart diseases, high blood pressure as well as the deterioration of blood vessels, nerves, and kidneys along with other high-risk health issues. Therefore, we must manage and treat diabetes effectively to decrease the risk of developing potential health complications associated with this disease.
There are three main types of diabetes namely:
- Type 1 diabetes, that can affect people at any age but is most commonly developed in children or young adults.
- Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes and frequently seen in adults.
- Gestational Diabetes (GSD), where blood glucose levels surge during pregnancy, putting both the mother and child at high-risk.
Can diabetes be prevented? Is it possible to cure and make it go away? These are two of the most frequently asked questions regarding this illness. At present, Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented and Type 2 diabetes is considered to be an ongoing illness. However, prevention and management of Type 2 diabetes are possible through a healthy lifestyle as opposed to a sedentary lifestyle. This is where walking, a relatively easy form of physical activity, demonstrate its significance in helping manage this illness.
Significance Of Walking To Control Diabetes
Diabetes control means maintaining blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible (70–130 mg/dl, or 3.9–7.2 mmol/L). As per researches, walking can be instrumental in lowering blood glucose and thus improving diabetes control. Taking a short walk after meals can aid in lowering your blood sugar. However, doctors also advise against taking walks after an extended interval between your meals. Another interesting fact is that some studies show that taking three 15 minute walks at different intervals (ideally after three main meals) is much more beneficial than a straight 45-minute walk. More researches are still underway to substantiate these findings.
Physical activities or exercise aid in blood sugar absorption by our muscles, thus stopping it from accumulating in our bloodstream. A diabetic person who walks every day from 30 minutes to an hour can reap this benefit with ease. Besides, when you are physically active, you lose body fat which further aids to lower your resistance to insulin. This implies that your body becomes naturally capable to control diabetes, relieving you from taking diabetic medications. Nevertheless, it should be noted that for ongoing diabetes control, one must engage in continuous physical activities as when it stops, the benefits cease too. This is why doctors advise regular exercises for diabetics, where the importance of walking is highlighted and often recommended. However, it is important to check with the doctor what form of exercise best suits your body type and existing health condition to reap the best results. In addition to this, if or when a person experiences tiredness, shortness of breath, profuse sweating, etc during or after their exercise session, it holds paramount importance to go see a doctor immediately to rule out the occurrence of either hypoglycaemia (low glucose level) or hyperglycaemia (high glucose level).
How Much Is Not Too Much
To reap maximum benefits, you must walk the right way. Do not challenge your endurance right from the beginning rather take it slow and steady. Try to build up your stamina in a gradual, inexhaustive manner. For instance, walking 15 minutes a day, preferably after a meal, is an ideal beginner’s walking plan. This way you can prevent sugar spikes that occur post a meal and let your muscles absorb glucose more efficiently. Most researches recommend starting with 2400 steps and building up to 10,000 steps per day. However, it is pivotal you work towards this target and gradually push yourself further to accomplish your goal. So, add 500 to 1000 steps at a given time and stretch your stamina. Pedometers can help you keep track of your progress. Add 5 to 10 minutes per week to your walking plan and walk at least five to seven days every week. This should be sufficient to maintain the desired range of blood sugar levels in your body.
Tips To Safe Walking
Mentioned below are some tips for diabetes that one can adopt to ensure safe walking:
- Choose a calming location with less chaos and crowd. The more pleasant the location chosen for daily-walks seems the more drawn you feel to the activity day in and day out.
- Maintain a moderate pace, to begin with, and increase your pace cautiously over time. Sweating and elevated heart rate are good signs but be conscious of not overworking your body.
- Be mindful of potential injuries as foot injuries are a diabetic person’s worst nightmare. Wear appropriate footwear.
- Keep yourself hydrated before, during, and after your walk as dehydration can adversely affect your blood glucose levels.
- Following a proper warm-up and cool-down routine is critical to allow your body to adapt to exercise. Take short breaks, rest, and stop immediately in case of any pain or discomfort.
- Choose a specific time to walk, be it indoors or outdoors. Invite a friend or join a walking group to get that motivational drive.
- Do not forget to carry sweet snacks, candy, or any type of glucose supplement on your walks. This would help in case you experience a sudden drop in sugar levels or hypoglycaemia.
- It is always safe to carry a diabetic ID that has important information regarding your health and emergency contact number.
- Last but not the least, do routine check-ups with your doctor and closely monitor your blood sugar levels at regular intervals. Your doctor must approve of your workout plan, no matter what you do.
Being physically active keeps diabetes in check and promotes both physical as well as emotional health. Setting achievable goals and maintaining consistency is key to diabetes control. Walking is a simple hassle-free activity that makes exercise less daunting. However, it is equally important to pay attention to your body and its needs. Understand that each person with diabetes has unique needs subjective to blood sugar levels in their bloodstream. So, your walking plan is not a one-size-fits-all activity targeting the same results. This is why it is vital to seek your doctor’s approval and guidance for your workout plan. Besides, your plan should be neither exhausting nor unrealistic and should be exclusive to your needs. Have an exclusive solid plan, be consistent, and maintain perseverance. Happy walking!