For the almost 26 million Americans with diabetes, treadmill exercise is a safe and simple option for people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetics do not produce any insulin at all and must inject it daily; those with type 2 do not produce enough inslin or cannot use what they produce efficiently. Using a treadmill is an aerobic activity that requires the use of large muscles and makes the heart beat faster and the lungs breathe harder. It is also an effective way to lose weight. Losing weight is very important for those who have, or are at risk for developing, diabetes. According to a study known as the Diabetes Prevention Program, people can delay and even prevent type 2 diabetes just by losing as little as 5 to 7 percent of their total body weight. Always consult your physician before beginning a new exercise program.
According to the American Heart Association, adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. Regular exercise such as working out on a treadmill can reduce the risk of developing these conditions. According to a study published in the August 1999 edition of "The New England Journal of Medicine," researchers found that regular brisk walking can reduce the risk of a heart attack by the same amount as more strenuous exercise such as running. Along with healthy eating, regular exercise can also reduce -- or in the case of some people with type 2 diabetes, even eliminate -- the need for diabetes medication.
Special Considerations for Diabetics
Diabetics need to avoid low blood sugar, which can happen during exercise and may lead to a diabetic coma or other complications. Diabetics should test their blood sugar level before exercising and at regular intervals if exercising for more than an hour. They should check their feet for cuts, blisters or sores, drink plenty of water before and during exercise, and have a fast-acting carbohydrate snack handy in case of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar.
To increase exercise intensity, walk vigorously for five minutes, then run for two to three minutes, and return to walking for one to two minutes. This is called interval training and can be more effective than walking at one pace. One or two times a week, set the treadmill to a grade that is challenging yet does not compromise form, and then gradually incorporate the walk-run sequence on the incline.
After a workout, treadmill users should walk slowly for about five minutes, then stretch and check their feet and glucose levels. It is useful to record the number of steps, the distance, calories burned, incline rate, speed and glucose levels before and after exercise in order to see the benefits of the activity and learn how to prevent low and high glucose levels. A daily journal will serve as a source of inspiration for continuous improvement.
Warnings for Treadmill Users with Diabetes
Do not skip planned meals prior to exercise, or go too long without eating. Do not exercise if blood glucose is below 70 mg/dL or above 300 mg/dL or if you have a fasting blood glucose above 250 mg/dL with ketones in the urine. If you experience numbness or pain in your extremities during or after exercise, contact a doctor immediately.
- National Diabetes information Clearinghouse: What I Need to Know about Physical Activity & Diabetes
- Mayo Clinic: Walking: Trim Your Waistline, Improve Your Health
- Ace Get Fit: Exercise and Type 1 Diabetes
- CDC: Diabetes Public Health Resource
- Circulation: Exercise and Cardiovascular Health
- National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse: Diabetes Prevention Program
- The New England Journal of Medicine: A Prospective Study of Walking as Compared with Vigorous Exercise...
- American Journal of Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology: Sprint Interval and Traditional Endurance...
- The New England Journal of Medicine: Diet, Lifestyle and the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in Women
Mary Werner has more than 15 years of corporate communications experience. She also writes about health and fitness for a variety of websites. Werner earned an M.B.A. from the Acton School of Business in Austin, Texas, and a B.A. in clinical psychology from Smith College in Northampton, Mass.