If you’re one of the 30.3 million Americans who’s been diagnosed with diabetes, you’ve probably heard some conflicting information about exercise.
You may have heard that exercise can make it harder for you to manage your diabetes, or you may have been warned that you won’t be able to lose weight because you’re diabetic. Both of these pieces of advice couldn’t be farther from the truth, though.
Exercise is great for diabetics (and everyone, for that matter), and running is one of the best options for diabetics who need help losing weight or getting in shape.
If you keep these running tips in mind, there’s no reason why you can’t be a successful runner — you can even run a marathon if you want!
Why is Running Good for Diabetics?
Running is a great form of exercise for diabetics. Not only can it help them shed excess weight (which, in turn, decreases the risk of complications), but it can also help improve the body’s insulin sensitivity. This is because running depletes your glycogen stores and creates a need for glucose to be shuttled out of the bloodstream and into the muscles. This, in turn, lowers blood glucose levels.
Tips for Diabetics Who Want to Start Running
As you can see, there are lots of benefits of running for diabetics. But, there are also some important steps you should take before you take up this new type of exercise. These tips will help you stay safe and get the most out of your workouts.
1. Talk to Your Doctor
First things first, it’s important to talk to your doctor before you start any new exercise program. This is especially important if you’re currently not in the habit of working out regularly.
When you talk to your doctor, he or she can give you specific advice on how to best manage your blood sugar levels and other symptoms while you exercise. They can also give you tips on how to get started safely and establish a lasting habit.
Your doctor may be able to put you in touch with a coach or trainer who can give you specific training advice, too.
2. Walk First
Many people hesitate to take up running because they think they have to be a great runner right out of the gate. It’s not fair to put that kind of pressure on yourself when you’re a beginner, though.
Don’t start by trying to run five miles every single day. Instead, start by just going for a 30-minute walk a few times a week. After a couple weeks, start adding in short bursts of jogging. Pretty soon, you’ll be running for the full 30 minutes, and you can work on increasing your speed and distance from there.
Remember, it takes time to become a good runner. The most important thing is for you to be consistent with your training.
3. Check Your Blood Sugar
Be sure to check blood sugar levels before a run. Keep these guidelines in mind to help you determine whether or not it’s safe for you to exercise:
Less than 100 mg/dL: Your blood sugar may be too low
100-250 mg/dL: Your blood sugar is in a safe range
250 mg/dL or higher: Your blood sugar is too high
If your blood sugar is too low, eat a snack that contains 15-30 grams of simple carbohydrates. Fruit, crackers, and fruit juice are good options. You can also consume glucose tablets designed for runners.
Be sure to check your blood sugar after your run, too. If your blood sugar is lower than 100 mg/dL, have a snack to help bring your levels back up.
4. Time Your Runs Carefully
Many diabetics notice the greatest benefits of running when they run relatively soon after eating. This is especially true if they’re accustomed to experiencing a blood sugar spike within an hour or two of eating.
An evening run after dinner can help you keep your blood sugar under control for 24-72 hours after. You’re also less likely to deal with symptoms of low blood sugar (shakiness, weakness, confusion, etc.) when you time your runs this way.
5. Keep Simple Carbs on Hand
It’s also helpful to keep a snack that is rich in easily digested carbohydrates on hand during your workouts. If you do start to notice symptoms of low blood sugar, these snacks will be very helpful.
Running is a great exercise option for diabetics who want to manage their weight and increase their insulin sensitivity. If you want to start running but aren’t sure how to get started, these tips will help. Keep them in mind, and you’ll be on the road to a marathon before you know it!
-By James Fleming