Regular exercise is a good way to both prevent and manage type 2 diabetes. Many people, however, are unaware that walking – a low-impact exercise that improves blood flow and lowers blood pressure – can help stave off diabetes. Additionally, higher daily step counts can help people with diabetes reach their blood glucose (blood sugar) targets.
“A major complication of uncontrolled blood sugar is heart disease,” says Andrea Klein RN, BSN, CDCES, CCRP, Director of Preventive Medicine and Wellness, Dignity Health Yavapai Regional Medical Center. “Two out of three people who have diabetes also have high blood pressure, which increases your chances of heart attack and stroke. Walking is an excellent way to improve your cardiovascular health and manage your blood-sugar levels.”
Are you ready to launch a new walking program or step up your current commitment to walking? Either way, Klein recommends getting your health care provider’s clearance before you begin. This is especially important if you are among the one in three American adults who has prediabetes or the 11 percent with a diabetes diagnosis.
Now is the time
November is National Diabetes Month, a good time to launch a walking program. Here are five tips that will get you moving in the right direction.
- Prepare for your walk (especially longer ones) – Foot issues can be a factor for people with diabetes, which is why Klein recommends purchasing a good pair of walking shoes. If a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is an option, it’s also a good investment. Sync your CGM with your smartphone for real-time access to glucose levels. “Stay hydrated, take along a few glucose tablets, and pack an energy bar for emergencies,” says Klein. “Be prepared and think through everything you may need, especially if you’re taking a long walk or hike.”
- Take walks when they will benefit you most – Research shows that a 20 to 30-minute walk taken approximately a half-hour after breakfast, lunch, or dinner can reduce spikes in blood sugar.
- Work up to more steps – The more active you are, the less likely you are to develop type 2 diabetes. Work your way up to approximately 10,000 steps per day or to a 30-minute daily walk. If it’s difficult to walk 30 minutes at a time, take shorter walks throughout the day—10 minutes in the morning, afternoon, and evening.
- Pick up the pace as you get stronger – People who walk briskly – between 80 and 100 steps per minute – have overall better health outcomes compared with those who walk a similar amount each day but at a slower pace.
- Walk with a buddy, if possible – You’re more likely to stay with your walking routine if you walk with a friend. Klein recommends people with diabetes wear a medical alert band, especially when taking a solo walk or hike. Whatever type of fitness program you take on, it’s important to stick to it. “The benefits of exercise build over time,” explains Klein. “People who engage in regular, moderately intense physical activity are at about 30 percent lower risk for type 2 diabetes than people who are sedentary.”
Want to learn more? Join Yavapai Regional’s “Healthy Living with Diabetes” program by calling 928-771-5794 or explore other diabetes education offerings here.