Walking for Exercise with Type 2 Diabetes
Walking is one of the most convenient forms of exercise. It can be especially helpful to people with type 2 diabetes who seek easy and low-impact ways to be active. Bonus? It can be done almost anywhere at any time that works for you. However, first thing’s first: consult your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen. They can help you determine what exercise plan would be suitable for you based on your health.
Benefits of Walking with T2D
- Lowers blood sugar
- Improves insulin sensitivity
- Reduces the risk of heart disease, strokes
- Lowers cholesterol and stress levels
- Builds bone density, which prevents osteoporosis and promotes bone health
How to Get Started
Getting started on a walking regimen is easier than you think. Here are some tips you can use today:
Set Goals: Think about the walking you already do and set goals to increase the amount of walking over time. If you’re currently walking 500 steps per day, you may want to progress to 1,000 steps per day and go from there. iPhones have automatic pedometers via the Health App, but applications like Pacer and FitBit are also great at counting steps and motivating you to move a little more each day. Most aim to work up to a daily goal of 10,000 steps. Always track your progress.
Make Time to Walk 30 Minutes per Day: The American Diabetes Association recommends a 30-minute walk at least five days per week—this can also be effectively split up into three or more 10-minute walks throughout the day. Working towards 60-80 minutes per day is recommended. For beginners, here is an outlined walking plan. Start with achievable daily goals that can be easily built upon and surpassed over time to maintain momentum and keep motivation high.
Grab a Friend: Exercise isn’t just helpful for you—it can be beneficial for those around you as well. If you have a dog, use your furry friend as a motivator to get you both moving and on the path to a healthier lifestyle. Grab a friend, relative or coworker and decide to get into a walking routine together to hold each other accountable.
Sweating It Out: Managing Your Intensity
A more intense walking workout would involve brisk and powerwalking. If walking for a continuous 30 minutes, warm up for five minutes, then aim to walk at a brisk pace for 15 to 20 minutes, before cooling down for five minutes. A brisk pace would be three to four mph—or when your breathing becomes heavy, but you can still speak in full sentences.
Gear You’ll Need
- Walking shoes and socks—preferably flat, flexible, athletic shoes that fit well. You can get fitted for shoes at your local running store for optimal comfortability and safety.
- Put off exercise if you have high or low blood sugar.
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
- Monitor blood sugar levels before, during and after exercise.
- If you’re on insulin, some research indicates injection sites should be away from muscles you’ll be using the most as working out can accelerate insulin absorption and lead to hypoglycemia. Other sources have a different perspective, therefore, it’s always best to discuss options with your doctor.