July 9, 2018 3

The Benefits of Cardiovascular Exercise for Blood Sugar Health

Posted by:Dr. Brian Mowll onJuly 9, 2018

Exercise is important for all people who want to maintain a heathy body, but it’s particularly important for those with type 2 diabetes. Daily exercise, as well as following a healthy, low carb meal plan, should be part of your treatment plan so that you may maintain your blood glucose levels. Controlling your blood sugar levels so they consistently stay in the proper range is essential to prevent long-term complications such as kidney disease and nerve damage.

How Exercise Benefits Blood Glucose Levels

People with type 2 diabetes typically have too much glucose in their blood, because their body doesn’t use insulin properly due to insulin resistance. 

Exercise has the ability to lower the amount of glucose in the blood. This is because our muscles can use that glucose without insulin when we exercise. This is incredible news and means that despite being insulin resistant, when you exercise, your muscles get the glucose they need (benefit 1) and in turn your blood glucose levels go down (benefit 2). In addition, exercise actually makes your insulin more effective, so you become less resistant and your cells use glucose much more effectively.

Another amazing benefit of exercise is that it helps those with type 2 diabetes avoid heart problems, a typical long-term complication of the disease. Those with diabetes are more susceptible to developing blocked arteries – arteriosclerosis – which can lead to a heart attack. Exercise helps you maintain healthy lipid levels and improves the health of your blood vessels.

“The reason I exercise is for the quality of life I enjoy.” – Kenneth H. Cooper

Before You Hit the Gym

While exercise is incredibly important for your overall health, the truth is, many people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are overweight and have not paid much attention to exercise in the past. For this reason, it is important to check in with your doctor and have an assessment before beginning any new exercise program.

As I just mentioned, diabetes can lead to blocked arteries and high blood pressure, so you’ll need to be sure your heart is healthy enough for cardio exercise.

Your doctor will also want to be sure you are not suffering from any other complications such as neuropathy or retinopathy.

Besides getting the green light from your doctor, there are three things you should do before starting an exercise program:

1) Set Realistic Goals

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was your current body. It took many years for diabetes to develop and it will take time to get back under control through exercise.

Do not expect to drop 10 pounds in one week and don’t try to jump back into what you were doing 15 years ago. Just be patient, start slowly – perhaps walking for 20 minutes 3X a week, and gradually increase the amount and intensity of the activity.

Get a Workout Buddy

Starting an exercise plan can be difficult for anyone, but it can be particularly challenging when you have not been active in a while. I always suggest to my patients that they find someone who will not only hold them accountable in the beginning, but also motivate them to get moving.

Plan on Checking Your Blood Sugar Before and After a Workout

You’ll have to learn how your body is going to respond to exercise. As I mentioned, exercise will reduce the glucose in your blood. By checking before and after, you’ll see by just how much.

What Should Your Cardio Program Look Like?

Cardio exercises have specific goals, and those are to increase your breathing, get your heart beating faster, and work the major muscle groups. Some of the best cardio exercises are walking (great when you’re just starting out), biking, jogging, hiking, swimming, and dancing. Remember, you’ll want to start out slow and gradually increase the amount and intensity of your activity.

Again, achieving and maintaining the elevated heart beat is the basic goal of your program. Different people have different “rates” that they try and hit.  You know you’re in the right “heart rate” zone if you are moving your body at a good pace but can still hold a conversation. If you’re working out alone in your home gym, just try saying something out loud, like the Pledge of Allegiance, to see if you can speak easily or not. If not, slow it down.

In general, there are five steps of a cardio workout, and I recommend you do ALL of these steps to maximize benefits and safety.

Step 1: Warm up for 5-10 minutes. You want to raise your heart rate slightly, about 50% of what it will eventually get to.

Step 2: Stretch. Yes, you want to stretch at the beginning and end of your workout. Spend another 5-10 minutes to lightly stretch your major muscle groups to avoid injury.

Step 3: Workout. Here you will spend roughly 20 – 40 minutes exercising. Again, depending on your fitness level, your duration may vary.

Step 4: Cool down. Spend 5 – 10 minutes allowing your heart rate to slowly decrease to its normal level.

Step 5: Stretch.


As a final thought, it’s important to choose exercises that you actually enjoy. There’s no point in joining a gym if you HATE going to the gym. The goal here is not to workout six times and then quit, but to make exercise a habitual part of your daily life, like taking a shower. So, if you love to dance – dance. If you enjoy swimming – swim. If you want to volunteer at a pet shelter and take dogs for a walk, do that. If you love how your moving your body, you’ll do it more often.



    Excellent advice. I am going to do this. It confirms exactly what I have learned from other functional medicine doctors. Thank you so much for this very good reminder!!!


    THANKS NICE……………………

    Is there something to do for a clogged artery that may need a stent? exercise or food

    Dr. Brian Mowll

    If you are at the point where we need a stent, it’s best to follow your doctor’s advice. There is some evidence that Vitamin K2 can reverse atherosclerosis, and make sure that you are leading a low inflammation lifestyle moving forward and optimizing your blood sugar and lipids.

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