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Indoor Exercise for People with Diabetes

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Updated November 28, 2007

For many people with diabetes, exercise means heading out to a health club or walking around the neighborhood. But indoor exercise at home can be just as effective for controlling diabetes.

What Is the Benefit of Indoor Exercise at Home?

Aerobic exercise -- the type that engages the major muscles and elevates breathing and heart rates -- is most beneficial for people with diabetes. Exercise helps muscles take up glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream more efficiently, which is why it's so valuable in controlling diabetes. Because these effects last only 24 to 72 hours, it's important for people with diabetes to stick to regular exercise programs in order to ensure that their muscles draw sugar from the bloodstream continuously.

By including indoor exercise as an option, it's possible to be active even when it's dark, rainy or cold -- or whenever the time or inclination to leave the house is lacking.

Are there Special Precautions to Take before Exercising at Home?

If exercising at home means a significant change to an established regimen, a health care provider should be consulted. He or she may have specific guidance based on such factors as overall health, diabetes type and glucose levels. For example, more frequent glucose readings or exercising on a different schedule may be necessary. Anyone starting an exercise routine for the first time should also check with a health care provider.

Although being active indoors at home may not seem like a real workout, those engaging in such activity should remember to drink water. Staying hydrated is extremely important for people with diabetes, who should remember to take a drink by keeping a big container of fresh water nearby.

What Are Good Home Exercise Options?

There are dozens of ways to maintain an active routine around the house.
  • Housework: Active housework -- vacuuming, dusting, mopping, doing the laundry -- provides benefits similar to those of structured exercise. Playing fast-paced music helps increase movement.
  • Strapping on a pedometer: This small step-counter that attaches to the belt helps track the number of steps taken during the usual household rounds. Daily totals should be monitored. Ten thousand steps per day is considered a healthy goal. The American Diabetes Association has launched Club Ped, a program that encourages the use of a pedometer to track progress as well as linking up with others online.
  • Exercise videos: Exercising alone without external encouragement can be difficult. Exercise videos teach new moves in a focused 20- to 30-minute session, with guided warm-up and cool-down sessions. It's usually not hard to clear out enough space for a workout in front of the TV. Alternating workouts can help prevent boredom. Some public libraries lend exercise videos and some digital TV services offer free exercise videos on demand. There are even some exercise videos made especially for people with diabetes. One example is Walk Down Your Blood Sugar at Home, by walking expert Leslie Sansone.
  • Home workouts: There are many kinds of workouts to do indoors: strength training with dumbbells; calisthenics, such as push-ups, crunches, and lunges; and a whole variety of exercises that utilize big plastic stability balls or smaller, heavier medicine balls. Other choices are jumping rope, doing martial arts and dancing, as well as walking up and down stairs.

Sources:

"What I Need to Know About Physical Activity and Diabetes." National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. June 2004. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, National Institutes of Health. 3 Sep 2007

<http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/physical_ez/>. Diet and Exercise: The Keys to Success with Diabetes. The Cleveland Clinic Health Information Center. 18 July 2003. Cleveland Clinic Foundation. 3 Sep 2007.

<http://www.clevelandclinic.org/health/health-info/docs/1600/1669.asp?index=6877>. "Welcome to Club Ped." Diabetes.org. American Diabetes Association. 3 Sep 2007 <http://www.diabetes.org/ClubPed/index.jsp>.

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