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Tai Chi, Yoga and other exercises to control blood sugar and manage diabetes

Studies show that these exercises help in a big way to control blood sugar levels.

Written by Debjani Arora |Updated : November 25, 2017 3:07 PM IST

It is no secret that exercise plays an important role in keeping your blood sugar levels in control. If you are diabetic, exercise should be a part of your daily routine, an activity that you cannot do without. Living a sedentary lifestyle, like we all do these days, it isn t a shocking if you have had little or no time to sweat it out every day. But if your blood reports say that you have elevated blood sugar levels, then exercise should be your primary focus. If you are wondering how to get started with exercises, here are a few physical activities that most diabetics can do:


This is the easiest form of exercise that you can indulge in without investing in any heavy duty equipment or taking a gym membership. In fact, even 30 minutes of walking every day can help you bring your blood sugar levels under control. Studies show that walking in a moderate to fast pace for at least two to three hours every week can also help to reduce the chances of complications due to diabetes [1]. Here are some surprising benefits of walking a 1000 steps after dinner.

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Tai Chi

If walking is too boring for you, try Tai Chi. This traditional Chinese martial art uses slow and steady movements to calm the mind and body. The researchers at the University of Florida studied a closed group of women and found that women who practiced Tai Chi for 16 weeks had much better control on blood sugar levels. However, the study also concluded that with this form of exercise gait, speed, muscle strength, static balance, walking endurance and self-reported physical function or mental health did not improve in older sedentary adults with type 2 diabetes. So, talk to your doctor if your blood sugar level is high about what kind of exercise is best for you. However, Tai Chi can still be a form of exercise that can help with weight loss and muscle flexibility [2]. Did you know Tai Chi can make you look younger too?


Yoga is an excellent form of exercise for people suffering for type II diabetes. Studies have suggested that regular practice of yoga can help lower both fasting postprandial blood sugar levels. In fact yoga also helps to improve insulin production. It helps to lower body fat percentage and body weight too. It reduces levels of stress hormone cortisol and free fatty acids. It also helps to lower insulin resistance and improve insulin sensitivity [3]. Here are 10 yoga poses that every diabetic should practice.

Cardio exercises

Cycling, dancing, swimming or any cardio activity can improve heart rate, help burn calories and keep blood sugar under control. Studies suggest that high-intensity cardio workouts help to control blood sugar levels better than low impact cardio activities [4]. Here are five things you can do to manage your blood sugar levels better.

Weight training

While weight training also is a high-level intensity workout, however, a combination of weight training and cardio works best for a diabetic. The longer a person spends doing combination exercises like weight training and aerobics, the lower the chances of suffering from the complications of diabetes. However, remember to balance your weight training programs so that it doesn t stress you out. Try to incorporate weight training at least twice or thrice a week to regulate your blood sugar levels [5].

Keep in mind:

It is necessary to check your blood sugar levels before you start exercising. If your blood sugar is below 100 mg/dL, probably you need to eat something before you start exercising so that your body has enough glucose to provide your body. A fruit, multigrain sandwich or even a bowl of poha 30 minutes before exercise is an ideal snack. If your blood sugar is too high, say it is above 250 mg/dL, it could mean that your body needs insulin. Without adequate insulin, your body would be breaking down fats to provide you with more glucose, and this will make your glucose levels go higher, which can aggravate your condition. So wait till your blood sugar is within a normal range or at least below 250 mg/dL after you take your insulin shot.

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[1] 1: Caspersen CJ, Fulton JE. Epidemiology of walking and type 2 diabetes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008 Jul;40(7 Suppl):S519-28. doi: 0.1249/MSS.0b013e31817c6737. Review. PubMed PMID: 18562969.

[2] Tsang, T., Orr, R., Lam, P., Comino, E. J., & Singh, M. F. (2007). Health benefits of Tai Chi for older patients with type 2 diabetes: The Move It for Diabetes Study A randomized controlled trial. Clinical interventions in aging,2(3), 429.

[3] 1: Sahay BK. Role of yoga in diabetes. J Assoc Physicians India. 2007 Feb;55:121-6. PubMed PMID: 17571741.

[4] El-Kader, S. A., Gari, A. M., & El-Den, A. S. (2014). Impact of moderate versus mild aerobic exercise training on inflammatory cytokines in obese type 2 diabetic patients: a randomized clinical trial. African health sciences, 13(4), 857-863.

[5] 1: Gr ntved A, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Andersen LB, Hu FB. A prospective study of weight training and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus in men. Arch Intern Med.2012 Sep 24;172(17):1306-12. doi:0.1001/archinternmed.2012.3138. PubMed PMID:22868691; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3822244.

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