If you’re diabetic, joint pain may seem like a normal part of your life. You’ve noticed that it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to do everyday activities like tying your shoes or getting out of bed. You may feel older than you really are. You avoid exercise not only because of the stiffness in your joints but also because your balance is off. This is exactly why you should begin using stretching as a tool for your diabetes.
The importance of exercise and stretching in diabetes treatment.
Exercise in general may seem like a daunting task, especially if you’re not used to it. Remember, no one is expecting you to become a triathlete overnight. There are some steps, however, that can get you feeling better almost immediately!
Many leading experts, such as Diabetes Canada, say that regular exercise is one of the key components of managing diabetes. Physical activity can help regulate blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure, and get you feeling your best.
Knowing you should exercise and doing it are two vastly different things. This is where WeStretch comes in to help. Regardless if you have never exercised a day before in your life, WeStretch is designed to meet you exactly where you are and to help you become more flexible and agile.
Once you have begun to feel like your balance has become stable and you have more energy, try finding different activities you like doing. While that could be things like rock climbing or water-skiing, you can also look to activities closer to home, like gardening or walking around your neighbourhood.
One thing to keep an eye on, though, is how your blood sugar levels change with your exercise. While stretching helps diabetics to regulate glucose in the body, monitor your levels and have both insulin and a snack on hand, just in case.
There are many ways how high blood sugar affects people with diabetes. One of those ways is glycation, a condition that plagues diabetics in particular because of high blood sugar levels.
Glycation causes stiff joints in diabetics.
Glycation is what happens when glucose attaches to protein molecules and forms new compounds called advanced glycation end products, or AGEs. When AGEs react with tendons and cartilage, it causes collagen molecules in these structures to deform. This causes your joints to become stiff and brittle.
Collagen glycation is a normal process that comes with aging. Unfortunately, because diabetics can have high blood sugar levels, excessive glucose in the bloodstream speeds up the glycation process. The result is that diabetics often suffer from stiff and sore joints.
It’s easy not to want to exercise when you are in pain, but that is when it is most important. If you have diabetes, start stretching or doing beginner yoga to get moving and relieve joint pain.
Stretching can help lower blood sugar and more.
Your body becomes more sensitive to insulin.
Insulin is a hormone created by the pancreas that allows your cells to receive glucose and use it as an energy source. When you have type 2 diabetes, your body often is unable to produce enough insulin for your cells to properly absorb the glucose, and often uses it inefficiently. By exercising, though, your body becomes more sensitive to insulin, and with enough consistent exercise, you can overcome insulin resistance.
Stretching improves circulation, which helps your body function properly.
Our bodies are amazing. They are designed to regulate oxygen flow, clear out old cells, and provide fresh nutrients to keep us functioning properly. By sitting all day, however, our bodies are unable to function efficiently, and this is where problems begin.
Our lack of movement slows down circulation and doesn’t allow our blood to flow easily to where it needs to go. This lack of blood flow is often one of the contributors to muscle pain and tension, as your muscles aren’t getting the nutrients they need to function properly.
Taking the time to stretch, however, promotes good circulation. This leads to joint and muscle lubrication, reducing pain and increasing your range of motion.
Stretching decreases stress
If there’s one constant in modern life, it’s stress. It doesn’t matter if it comes from work, relationships, or money- it has many impacts on daily life.
When stressed, the body releases cortisol, which triggers the release of glucose from the liver. Our bodies do this so that we have sufficient energy to flee a dangerous situation, like our ancestors having to run from a hungry tiger. The problem is that not every instance of stress requires us to run away.
For most people, this is fine, but for diabetics, stress can be especially harmful. The increased blood sugar in the blood, without adequate insulin to combat it, can lead to hyperglycemia and even diabetic ketoacidosis. This can cause a variety of issues, such as heart disease, vision problems, or even leading to a coma. Combine the physical effects with the impact on your mental health, and it’s quickly apparent how dangerous stress can be.
(Fun fact: Some diabetics notice that their blood sugar can spike by watching a scary movie!)
Stretching acts as a form of stress relief, releasing dopamine and seratonin into your body. It clears out excess cortisol and allows your muscles to relax.
Helping diabetics get stretching.
If you haven’t exercised in a while, the thought of a strenuous workout might be intimidating. You don’t need a strenuous exercise routine to improve your blood sugar levels and flexibility. Several studies have shown that simple stretching routines are enough to improve blood sugar levels and to feel good.
You do not have to spend hours exercising. Start stretching for just 5 to 10 minutes a day. This allows your body to get used to basic stretching exercises without feeling overwhelmed or overtaxed.
If you are concerned about bending over, WeStretch offers customizations that allow you to do standing-only stretches, or even just stretches by laying down on the floor. It's not about how hard you push yourself, but how you can do little actions to feel your best.
Stretching for your diabetes starts today.
While doing a variety of exercises is best for your physical health, stretching is a great way for diabetics to introduce more movement in their day. Many people notice that once they form the habit of regular stretching, they gradually want to increase the amount of activity they do. Some, such as Kim, often do upwards of 30 minutes of stretching a day, as a form of exercise that they can do right at home.
If you’re a diabetic, it’s encouraging to know that the simple act of stretching can make such an incredible difference in your life.
Diabetes management doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task. By regularly exercising, being conscious of your blood sugar levels, and maintaining a good relationship with your doctor, you can lead a full and healthy life. Get stretching today to begin feeling your best!
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This article is not intended to act as or replace medical advice. Please talk to your health care practitioner if you have any concerns.
Updated June 18, 2021