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Lt Col Reynolds
Physical activity can help manage diabetes and prevent diabetes-related complications by contributing to weight loss. It also helps insulin absorb glucose into all your body’s cells, including your muscles, for energy. Muscles use glucose better than fat does, so building and using muscle through physical activity can help control blood glucose. Capt Laydon, as a physical therapist, can you tell us more about the importance of physical activity in managing diabetes?

Capt Laydon
Absolutely, Dr. Reynolds. The more physical activity you do, the more calories you burn. Remember, burning calories is an important part of losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight because it balances out the calories you take in through food and drink.

When considering an exercise program, it’s important to meet with a provider to determine if there are any activities you should avoid, especially if you have any diabetes-related complications affecting the eyes, nerves, or cardiovascular system. It’s also important to think about activity type, intensity, duration, and frequency. For weight loss, it’s generally recommended to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. Examples of this kind of exercise are brisk walking, biking, swimming, and playing tennis or basketball. The 150 minutes can be spread out in short spurts over the week, for example, doing 30 minutes of activity at least five times a week.

It’s also important to choose activities you enjoy. You are more likely to stick with a program if you enjoy the activity. Planning progress goals and overall target weight loss are important to consider as well because these can provide incentive or motivation to keep going.

Physical activity is also important for weight maintenance. In fact, some studies suggest that maintaining weight after weight-loss requires more physical activity. One hour of moderate-intensity activity per day or 200 to 300 minutes per week are recommended for weight loss maintenance.

Building physical activity into your day can make it seem less burdensome. For example, start or end the day by taking your dog or a friend’s dog for a walk. When you go shopping, park further away from the entrance. Walk or dance around the room, or do sit-ups or leg lifts when you watch TV. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Deliver messages to your coworkers in person instead of sending emails.

Another great tool for increasing physical activity is counting steps. Many smartphones include a pedometer feature, or you can download a pedometer app. There are also watches and bracelets that count steps. Or you can buy an inexpensive pedometer that clips onto your waistband or belt. You may have to build up to it, but aim for 10,000 steps a day.