Why Exercise is Good for Your Blood Sugar

You can lower your risk of developing diabetes just by exercising regularly

Credit: Flickr/rosswebsdale

During exercise, your muscles use up stored glucose, lowering your blood sugar levels

Regular exercise has many important health benefits, not the least of which is improving the body’s response to insulin – the hormone responsible for metabolizing sugar in the body

Regular, moderate exercise trains the body to keep blood sugar levels stable, thereby lowering your risk for developing diabetes. It’s also an excellent blood sugar management tool for people already living with diabetes.

How the Body Regulates Sugar

In healthy people, the pancreas releases insulin when the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood increases, such as after eating.

One of the things insulin does is stimulate cells to take in excess glucose, which lowers blood sugar levels.

Blood Sugar and Exercise

Blood sugar actually plays an important role during physical exercise by fuelling cells. For example, a sudden burst of activity (e.g., sprinting to catch the bus) causes the liver to release enough stored glucose to power the action. During longer or more vigorous exercise sessions, the muscles use even more glucose (almost 20 times the normal rate), which dramatically lowers glucose levels in the blood.

Exercise causes the body to use up glucose and thereby helps keep blood sugar levels in a normal range, which explains why regular exercise is so critical, not only in preventing diabetes, but also in enhancing the health of people already living with the disorder.

Regular exercise also helps control weight, reduces body fat, improves the body’s response to insulin and strengthens the heart, making it one of the best things you can do to support your health.

Note: People with diabetes are at higher risk for heart disease and should consult a physician before embarking on a vigorous exercise program. Exercise can also make the body more sensitive to insulin, which can lead blood sugar levels to be too low. Talk to your doctor about optimal blood sugar levels both before and after exercise.

Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.