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All About Intensity and Duration

Updated: Feb 23, 2022

There are different types of exercise for diabetics. We need exercise to help maintain our weight, control blood sugar, improve mood, and reduce our risk of heart disease and stroke. Doing household chores is easy exercise and doesn’t stress large muscle groups. Sprints, weight lifting, or anything that affects large muscle groups may cause extra sugar stores to be released into the bloodstream. Working in the garden all day can cause my blood sugar to drop like a stone. In the end it really is about the intensity and duration of your exercise.

If I go digging out in the garden, I tend to plant many plants. Digging with a full-size shovel activates muscles in my arms, back, abs and legs. This increases my blood sugar. These big muscles tend to release the sugar, glucose, stored in them. The muscles use this energy and burn the sugar off. This opens up space in our muscles for more sugar to pore in like a waterfall. If we keep doing this activity long enough, it will cause our blood sugar to lower. Sometimes it gets too low; and we have a hypoglycemic event.

Yay! This sounds good. Lower blood sugar means we get to eat. At first, you may think you get to eat like before you were diagnosed as a diabetic. Eek! Don’t do that. That is the path to a blood sugar roller coaster ride.

To prevent getting on that particular ride through some rolling hills of low and then high blood sugar, eat a reasonable amount of carbohydrates 17 to 34 grams, one or two servings; and add some protein. The protein helps release more insulin which processes food more evenly. A great example would be apples and peanut butter. Another choice is one slice of raisin toast with some plant-based butter.

At night, I do a stretching type of yoga. It helps me to identify areas of my body that I’ve abused at work or play over the years. I work on loosening up muscles. I find it helps other areas like my knees and my feet heal. Stretching yoga fits into my lifestyle while I watch hockey. Some mornings, I wake up after this with lower blood sugar than the day before. This occurs when I release particularly deep, painful knots in my body and get an endorphin rush. The lower blood sugar in the morning lead me to realize my activity from the prior day affects my blood sugar the next day.

I highly recommend working exercise into your daily routine; but before you do, please discuss your plans with your healthcare team. Discuss the type of activity as well as how often, intensely, and long you plan to do it. Moderately intense exercise with low impact on your joints is recommended... walking, biking, or swimming. Just make sure it's a fun activity that you like to do. It will make it easier to achieve and maintain this health goal.

After your doctor's visit, you need to follow a few wise pieces of advice to start on the path to a healthier you. If you are taking insulin or medicine that causes your blood sugar to drop, have your blood sugar meter handy. Check your blood sugar before (15 to 30 minutes), during, and after exercise. This way you know how that activity affects you. If you exercise for a long period of time, check your glucose level every 30 minutes. Be on the lookout for unexpected drops.

If your blood sugar drops below 70 mg/dL or you become shaky and confused, stop exercising. Keep a quick healthy snack nearby in case depleted sugar levels catch you off guard. You can use nuts or seeds for minor sugar drops. A larger sugar drop from higher intensity work outs may require glucose tablets or a 1/2 glass of orange or apple juice, an orange, apple, or almond butter covered slice of raisin or whole wheat bread. Just hard candy without carbs will raise your blood sugar quickly and then cause a crash. Make sure your snack has 17 grams of carbohydrates to help maintain that blood sugar level. Test your blood sugar every 15 minutes until you are over 100 mg/dL and feel better.

Don't exercise when your blood sugar is below 100 mg/dL. This can cause a hypoglycemic event to come on quite quickly. If your blood sugar is above 250 mg/dL, it is too high to exercise. This means your body is extremely low on insulin and may be producing ketones. You can tell by using ketone test strips, usually available at your local pharmacy. If you exercise at this time, you may cause ketoacidosis to kick in. Ketoacidosis can wreak havoc in the body by raising the acidity level of your body which can lead to hospitalization and even death.

The perfect zone for exercising is a blood sugar reading anywhere between 100 mg/dL to 250 mg/dL. You will need to check your blood sugar immediately after exercise. Then depending on the intensity of your exercise, you'll need to keep an eye on it for 4 to 8 hours. The more often you exercise the easier it gets to tell what your body will do during and after different types of exercise. On days when I work in my vegetable garden all day, I know now to plan an afternoon snack of nuts and berries.

Source: "Diabetes and exercise: When to monitor your blood sugar"

Mayo Clinic 01/20/2022

If you exercise and strain your muscles, you may need some protein to build or repair them. The turkey in this recipe will help do that as well as help you with your sleep, mood, and bladder control due to the L-tryptophan in it. The cilantro lowers blood sugar and adds a refreshing zip of flavor. The hot pepper flakes, dried and ground jalapeños, gives it just enough kick to give you a metabolic energy boost while it adds flavor without burning your tongue. It pairs well with a nice green salad or last week's cauliflower mashed potatoes.

Mexican meatloaf


  • olive oil cooking spray

  • 1 lbs. ground turkey

  • 2 large eggs, beaten

  • 3/4 cup panko Japanese style bread flakes

  • 1 small onion, minced

  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

  • 1 can enchilada sauce, divided

  • 1/2 tsp. taco seasoning

  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes


1.) Preheat the oven to 375°.

2.) Combine the eggs, spices, and 1/3 of the enchilada sauce in a large mixing bowl and blend the flavors with a whisk. Add turkey, onions, panko, and cilantro and mix thoroughly with your fingers.

3.) Use the cooking spray to coat a Pyrex or corning ware dish that has a cover.

4.) Transfer the meatloaf mix into the container. Round it more in the center leaving space on the side for the sauce to coat more of the loaf

5.) Cook for 30 minutes covered. Remove the cover; and cook for 30 more minutes. Remove the meatloaf from the oven, coat with the enchilada sauce, and cook for five more minutes.

6.) Pour the excess enchilada sauce off the top of the meatloaf into a gravy bowl and top your meatloaf slices with it.

You might be surprised to see bread flakes as an ingredient. The Japanese style bread flakes are lower in carbohydrates and sugars than other brands of bread flakes. Look for the black box. Panko also works well in casseroles.

I’m substituting turkey for ground beef because turkey is a leaner meat. This leaner meat is easier for the pancreas to process. The pancreas releases insulin and other digestive enzymes. Being diabetic, we most likely have a damaged one. If we’re trying to let it heal, we definitely need to make every effort to go easy on it.

This week, I was able to get a bit of extra exercise in myself. I headed over to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens to get a few extra steps in. The Birmingham Gardens is free to the public, open from sunrise to sunset, and beautiful. It inspired me to get my gardens cleaned up and prepared for spring. I'm headed out to my yard to do that right now. The exercise will help me work up my appetite and enjoy some more meatloaf. Please comment, like, share, and come back next week for more recipes, ideas, and tips. Subscribe to the website, you will receive a weekly email reminder when a new recipe comes out.

Disclaimer: This is not medical advice, but a compilation of research from medical sites. Make sure to see your doctor and have up-to-date lab work.

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