Diabetes & Walking – Why Should I?
When you’re managing your diabetes, moving more (as simply as walking) is sure path to make a big difference in how you feel and how you manage your condition. Walking is one of the best, easiest ways to get physically active, so walking should become your daily routine. The benefits of walking will show up very quickly. Your fitness and endurance will increase, you will burn excess calories, your heart will be healthier, you will suffer less from anxiety and depression, and your cognition will be clearer.
Walking: When, where, how…
You can walk anytime, anywhere, slower or faster, alone or in company, with or without a dog, on a predetermined route or always new and different – even in all weather conditions and in all seasons and all that – for free, but ‘salary’ is many times higher than the investment.
In the beginning, I recommend shorter and easier walks, but after a few days you can start walking more briskly (take care not to overestimate yourself).
The benefits of walking
We have already mentioned some of them, but there are more, for example: considering that you are diabetic, it’s important to note that it is scientifically proven walking enables our body to use insulin better. Additionally, blood pressure decreases and cholesterol concentrations fall. Our muscles get stronger over time, our flexibility increases, and our joints benefit as well. When we get movement, we will not only feel better physically, but also mentally, i.e. spiritually: our mind benefits because we become more relaxed and less stressed. As a result, symptoms of anxiety and depression also decrease and potentially disappear completely. It is also possible for our blood sugar values to return to normal. After 30-60 minutes of brisk walking and the activation of all the listed benefits, most people report that they sleep better and dream more peacefully.
How to get started with walking as a routine
First, make a firm decision that you want to walk. This is extremely important. Next, assess how long and far you are, at this moment, able to walk. (For example, what is the distance you can walk and how much time can you spend doing such? “I can walk 3 meters, I can walk for 2 minutes.”) You may want to consult with your healthcare provider before walking if you have very high current blood glucose readings or have other chronic conditions that limit your mobility. Start with easy short walks and gradually, every day, extend the route/distance and walking time. We hope your walks be pleasant and give you a chance to breathe and enjoy your environment. The goal of walking is not to prove anything to yourself or anyone else, or to compete–but rather to create comfort and relaxation, among other things.
Determine in advance what is the best time for you to walk: during the day (i.e. morning, afternoon, evening), weekly (every day, only certain days), during the weekend (will you walk or take a day or two off). It is best if walking becomes a regular daily routine, but it is also good to calculate at least one day of rest… if you walk five days a week for at least 30 minutes – all the listed benefits will catch up with you. Remember: benefits are fruit and not a root (goal) of your walking. You don’t need to achieve them, they will come by themselves. All you have to do is relax and walk.
Being that we are diagnosed with diabetes, it is essential that we do not forget to take care of our sugar levels both before and after walking. (For example: if you have an insulin pump, your pump will make things much easier to manage because of the system automation. However, if you don’t have one or are not insulin dependent, you should be aware of what you need to take care of to ensure you do not have a blood sugar drop below the normal range.) Regardless of what type of diabetes we get diagnosed with, it is important that we always bring something to snack on (banana, yogurt, etc.), depending on whether we feel full, hungry, or about to get hungry. We can have a snack before or after walking. Portion control and hydration are important to be mindful of as well. The amount of water we consume is dependent upon our unique needs, current weather conditions, or the season. Consult your healthcare provider for specific guidelines for your case of diabetes and other health conditions. Research demonstrates that without adequate hydration, our glucose levels quickly concentrate resulting in high circulating blood sugar. One of the best and simplest ways to break down excess glucose in the blood is to consume water.
IMPORTANT NOTES: For those who have fluid restrictions: be sure to talk to your doctor about how much water you should be consuming, as it may be possible to drink too much water in certain circumstances.
Don’t forget to carry a diabetic ID when walking, and it would be good idea if a family member or close friend knows which route you are walking that day.
It is especially important to be aware that as folks with diabetes, we have an increased risk for foot injuries and diabetic neuropathy. It is important to inspect our feet before and after walking. Appropriate shoes and foot support is important to prevent injuries or complications.
After making the decision that you want to walk every day for improvement of your health and wellbeing – let your goal be to walk at least half an hour a day, and if you reach the full hour – you can be very satisfied. There will be no shortage of benefits.