Exercise has many benefits. When you exercise often, it can improve your overall health. Exercise can:
Help the heart work better
Increase HDL ("good") cholesterol
Lower blood pressure
Reduce blood sugar levels and your diabetes risk
Help you maintain muscle mass
Reduce stress and improve mental health
Reduce the risk of osteoporosis, colon and breast cancers
Types of Exercise
A well-rounded exercise program will have three types of exercise.
Aerobic exercise (endurance or "cardiovascular" exercise) should be the base of your exercise program. Aerobic exercise involves continuous movement of the major muscle groups (arms, legs). This results in an increased heart rate and breathing rate. Types of aerobic exercise include:
Strength training ("resistance" exercise) involves lifting weights to build muscle strength and size.
Stretching makes muscles more flexible.
Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program. Choose aerobic activities that you enjoy and fit them into your lifestyle.
Make a plan that includes:
What type of activity you will do
When you will do it
Where you will do it
Why you want to do it
Goals you can achieve
Slowly increase how often, how hard, and how long you exercise. Build up to a goal of at least 150 minutes (2 ½ hours) per week. To achieve a healthier weight, aim for 250-300 minutes (4-5 hours) per week. You can add shorter sessions together to achieve your daily goal.
Use personal heart rate (HR) goals and perceived effort to gauge intensity. Slowly increase and decrease your heart rate. Use the equation below to find your target heart rate for 60-80% intensity.
Target HR, 60% intensity =
(220–Age) x 0.6
Target HR, 80% intensity = (220–Age) x 0.8
Use this table to measure your perceived effort, or exertion. The best exercise is between an 11-13 rating on the perceived exertion scale (PES).
Your breathing rate should increase, but not so much that you can’t talk. You should be able to talk, but not sing. If it’s not easy to hold a conversation, you are working harder than needed to have health benefits. Your chance of injury increases if you exercise too hard.
Exercising with Diabetes
The risk of high blood glucose (hyperglycemia) and low blood glucose (hypoglycemia) during exercise is a concern for people with diabetes.
High blood glucose can occur if the blood sugar is high before exercise.
Low blood sugar can be caused by:
Too little food before exercise.
Exercising when insulin is peaking.
Tips for Diabetics
Exercise after meals and snacks.
Inject insulin into non-active muscle group and ask doctor if you need to adjust insulin to support regular exercise.
Always carry an ID that shows you have diabetes and a fast-acting sugar source during exercise, such as glucose tablets or hard candy.
Check blood glucose levels before and after exercise, and sometimes during. Do not exercise if blood glucose is greater than 250mg/dl.
Guidelines for Nutrition During Exercise
Wear comfortable shoes with supportive arches that will not cause blisters.
Wear loose-fitting, weather-appropriate clothes.
Drink plenty of water.
Avoid outdoor exercise on hot and humid days (heat index above 85°F).
Avoid outdoor exercise when the temperature or wind chill is below zero.
If you have diabetes, watch for low blood sugar, and be prepared to treat it.
Listen to your body. Slow down or stop and call your doctor if you have:
Chest pain, pressure, or heaviness
Extreme shortness of breath
Frequent skipped heart beats
The improvements in your health will be worth the effort!
Who to Call
If you are a UW Health patient and have more questions, please call UW Health at one of the phone numbers below. You can also visit our website at www.uwhealth.org/nutrition.
UW Health Nutrition clinics and American Family Children’s Hospital (AFCH) can be reached at (608) 890-5500.
Health Education clinics can be reached at (608) 287-2770.
If you are a patient receiving care at UnityPoint – Meriter, Swedish American or a health system outside of UW Health, please use the phone numbers provided in your discharge instructions for any questions or concerns.