Walking Healthily with Type 2 Diabetes

By Nicky Jacquiery

It’s that time of year when the days are longer and the weather is milder. Whilst most of us are more likely to go out walking when it’s warm and sunny, I’m aware that there are some who may be reluctant to walk at any time because they are worried about their health. One of the more common health issues is type 2 diabetes, which unfortunately is becoming increasingly prevalent. If you have type 2 diabetes and you’re unsure whether walking is appropriate and safe for you, I hope I can allay your fears and help convince you that you can go walking. All you need to do is take a few sensible precautions.

Untitled-2 (7).jpgType 2 diabetes should not be confused with type 1 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type, and occurs when your blood glucose level is too high because the body isn’t producing enough of the hormone insulin, or the insulin isn’t work effectively.

"If you have type 2 diabetes, it’s important to eat a healthy, balanced diet and be active."

Increasing your activity will slow the progress of type 2 diabetes and help to control it. Also, if you’re overweight you’re more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, but being active may prevent it. Walking is recognised as one of the best forms of activity for anyone, including those with type 2 diabetes. Why? Because it’s easy and convenient; you can do it anytime and anywhere! You don’t need any specialist equipment and you can go at a pace that’s comfortable for you, building up slowly as and when you want to. Walking also has many other benefits for your diabetes and your overall health, including:

  • Improving your blood glucose levels;

  • Improving your body’s ability to use insulin effectively;

  • Reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke;

  • Lowering your stress levels, making you feel better emotionally;

  • Strengthening your bones, which is increasingly important as we get older;

  • Helping you to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight, especially if you increase the speed of your walks;

  • Walking at a brisk pace burns more calories and increases your heart rate, giving your body a better work out;

  • Helping you to sleep better.

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However, if you have type 2 diabetes there are some precautions that you should consider before you start walking:

1. Talk to your doctor or diabetes team and check that it’s okay for you to start walking as a way of increasing your activity levels. Your doctor or diabetes team will be able to give you advice about how you should manage your diabetes before, during and after your walk;

2. Check your blood glucose before you set off on a walk and when you get back. Also check your blood glucose when you’re out if it’s a longer walk. Regularly checking your blood glucose levels will give you an idea of how walking affects your diabetes. Perhaps start with a short walk and monitor your diabetes;

3. If your blood glucose is below a certain level before you start your walk, you may need to have some carbohydrates before you go. Again, your doctor or diabetes team will be able to advise you;

4. Carry glucose with you in case you have a hypo (low blood glucose) when you’re out on a walk and some medical ID;

5. You may feel more comfortable going out walking with a family member or a friend initially, especially if you’re worried about having a hypo. Knowing there is someone else with you may reduce your fears and encourage you to go out. Do make sure that they know how to recognise a hypo and what to do to treat one;

6. If you go out for a walk by yourself, tell someone where you are going and how long you expect to be out etc.

7. If you don’t have anyone to go out with and you don’t want to walk by yourself, why not try a walking group or a walking holiday? There are walks catering for all abilities and you’ll have the reassurance of always being with other people.

Although it can be easy to focus on what could potentially go wrong when you’re walking, try and think about the benefits for your diabetes and your overall health. Now that we’re approaching summer, there’s no better time to give it a go!

Originally published 20/03/18

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