Alicia Grayson was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes four years ago. As in many black families, the disease has cut a wide swath through Grayson’s relatives. “My mother, one of 13 children, had it,” she says, “and 11 of her siblings had it. The old folks used to say it skips a generation, but I’m one of six, and four of us have diabetes, too.”
Grayson keeps her blood sugar controlled with pills and a healthy diet, unlike her mother and two of her siblings, who all must take insulin shots. And she walks three times a week, per her doctor’s orders. “I’m up to three miles each session,” she says.
Walking and other aerobic exercises are a great way to lower your blood sugar level if you have diabetes. The National Institutes of Health recommends 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week. In fact, exercise is so important for diabetics that the American Diabetes Association (ADA) cautions that these patients miss no more than two days in a row.
These are the five best exercises for folks with diabetes:
- You can walk just about anywhere (Grayson does it in the gym at her church), so it is the most popular and most recommended exercise for people with diabetes. A casual stroll, however, won’t do the trick; you’ll need 30 minutes to an hour of brisk walking, three times each week.
- Swimming stretches and relaxes your muscles without putting pressure on your joints, which is great for people with diabetes. And studies show it burns calories, improves cholesterol levels, and eases stress. For the best benefit, swim at least three times a week for at least 10 minutes and gradually increase the length of your workout. Tell the lifeguard you have diabetes before you start your laps.
- Yoga, which builds flexibility, strength, and balance, is helpful for people with a variety of chronic conditions, including diabetes. The ADA suggests yoga may improve blood glucose levels due to improved muscle mass.
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Tune in to Black Enterprise’s Your Diabetes Self-Care Package series as we celebrate health and wellness this National Diabetes Awareness Month.