Diabetes and Exercise
Exercise is one of the best ways to help keep your diabetes under control. Many people
say they feel better when they get regular exercise.
What exercise can do for you
Exercise is important for everyone. If you have diabetes, regular activity can make
you feel better and help prevent complications. Research has shown that exercise offers
a list of health benefits. They include:
Reducing your risk for stroke and heart disease
Lowering your blood pressure and blood glucose
Helping your body use insulin
Raising your good cholesterol and lowering your bad cholesterol
You can be active
If you haven’t been active, talk with your healthcare team before you begin. People
with diabetes and eye or foot problems may need to not do some types of exercise.
Start out slowly. Try adding more movement to your daily routine. Every little bit
helps. Here are some suggestions:
Park your car farther from the store and walk.
Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Do some gardening.
Take a walk with family, friends, or your pet.
Other types of exercise that are good for people with diabetes include swimming, aerobics,
bicycling, skating, tennis, and basketball. These activities work your large muscles,
raise your heart rate, and increase how much air your lungs can hold. These are important
Strength training exercises using hand weights, elastic bands, or weight machines
can help strengthen and build muscle. Stretching helps you stay flexible and prevents
As you get stronger and can do more, you can add a few extra minutes to your physical
activity. If you have pain, stop your activity until the pain goes away. If it returns,
call your healthcare provider right away.
Do some type of physical activity each day. Walking 10 or 20 minutes every day is
better than one hour just once a week. Try not to go more than 30 minutes during the
day without some movement or light physical activity.
Cautions about exercise with diabetes
If you have certain diabetes-related complications, you should not do certain kinds
of physical activity. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider before doing exercise
with heavy weights if you have blood vessel or eye problems, or blood pressure that
is not under control. If you have nerve damage from diabetes, you may not be able to
tell if you’ve injured your feet during exercise.
Always check your blood sugar before you exercise, especially if you take insulin
or certain oral medicines. Physical activity can lower your blood glucose too much
and lead to hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia can occur during exercise, after, or much later.
Signs of hypoglycemia include:
Pale skin color
Sudden moodiness or behavior changes
Clumsy or jerky movements
Difficulty paying attention, or confusion
Tingling sensations around the mouth
Be cautious about exercising if you have recently skipped a meal. And if your blood
glucose level is below 100, have a small snack first. If your blood glucose is higher
than 300, physical activity might drive it higher. Wait until your glucose level is
lower before exercising. Also don't exercise if your fasting blood glucose is higher
than 250 and if you have ketones in your urine. Ask your healthcare provider about
the best times for you to exercise.
Another tip for exercise is to wear cotton socks and well-fitted, comfortable athletic
shoes. After exercise, be sure to look closely at your feet for signs of irritation,
broken skin, blisters, or other injuries.
Be sure to drink plenty of fluids during exercise. Dehydration can affect your blood
If you're having fun doing physical activities you really like, you'll be more likely
to exercise each day.