It’s become common knowledge that lifestyle interventions like exercise, a healthy diet, and quality sleep are important in helping people manage type-2 diabetes.
Now there is emerging research suggesting that mind-body practices, like yoga, qigong, mindfulness meditation, guided imagery, and more, may also help manage the condition.
An analysis of multiple studies published in the Journal of Integrative and Complementary Medicine suggests these calming mind/body interventions may play a role in controlling blood sugar levels.
People who participated in any of the following mind-body activities for any length of time lowered their levels of hemoglobin A1C, a key marker for diabetes. On average, the drop was similar to what is experienced by taking the common drug for treating type-2 diabetes, Metformin. The activities were:
• Qigong, which is a slow-moving martial art similar to tai chi
• Mindfulness-based stress reduction, a training program designed to help people manage stress and anxiety
• Guided imagery, visualizing positive images to relax the mind
A1C levels are determined by a blood test and indicate a person’s average blood sugar levels over the previous three months. Levels below 5.7 percent are considered normal, 5.7 percent to 6.5 percent are considered prediabetes, and 6.5 percent and higher are in the diabetes range.
The key to these mind-body practices for blood sugar management may lie in their ability to reduce stress. Relaxation can lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone), which improves insulin resistance and keeps blood sugar levels in check.
Relaxation can help people with diabetes in other ways, like improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure.
It is important to note that the review showed a link between these activities and lower A1C levels but does not prove cause and effect.
In any event, trying to add one of these activities to your daily routine, if only for 10 minutes, may be a worthwhile endeavor to improve overall health.