Exercise for people with diabetes

The benefits of regular physical activity are:

  • Lower blood glucose levels
  • Better response to insulin
  • Strengthened heart activity
  • Improved blood circulation
  • Lowered cholesterol
  • Improved physical fitness
  • Feeling better

People of all ages should include a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity of moderate intensity on most, if not all, days of the week. A regimen of physical activity must be planned judiciously when diabetes complications are present.

How to get started

  • Look for an activity that you enjoy.
  • Make sure it's right for your current level of fitness.
  • Walking may be a good way to get started. It is convenient and low in cost. All you need to get started are cotton socks and a pair of supportive shoes that fit well.

What will a complete exercise plan look like

  • Flexibility - stretch before you exercise.
  • Resistance Training - this includes lifting light weights to build calorie-burning muscle mass.
  • Aerobic activity - walking, dancing, swimming or biking to burn calories and reduce heart risk.

How to keep going

  • Make walking or your other exercise activities part of your daily routine.
  • Finding someone to walk or exercise with can help make your workout more enjoyable. When exercise is enjoyable and social, it is its own reward. This may help you stay motivated.
  • Know that everyone's exercise plans lapse occasionally. Instead of being discouraged, use this time as an opportunity of review your goals. Try to recommit as soon as possible to an enjoyable and healthy level of activity.
Calories Burned During Common Activies
Activity Cal/Min Cal/Hr
Housecleaning, Child care, Bowling, Walking {<3 mph} 3-4 180-240
Walking {4mph}, Golf {pulling cart}, Cycling {6mph}, dancing {general}, Table Tennis 4-5 240-300
Cycling {8mph}, Tennis {doulbes}, Golf {carring clubs}, Aerobics {lowimpact}, Badminton {general}, Gardening 5-6 300-360
Cycling {10mph}, Dancing {fast}, Swimming {light}, Basketball {general} 6-7 360-420
Cycling {11mph}, Water Skiing, Tennis {singles}, Basketball {general} 7-8 420-480
Jogging {5mph}, Cycling {12mph}, Aerobics {high impact}, Football {general}, Walking {upstairs}, Swimming {moderate} 8-10 480-600
Running {5 1/2mph}, Cycling {13mph}, Rope jumping 10-11 600-660
Running {6mph}, Karate, Judo, Swimming {vigorous} 11 or more 660 or more
Remember to check with your healthcare team before beginning an exercise routine, {1 mile=1.60934 km}

Staying safe

  • Check with your doctor before beginning to exercise.
  • Start slowly. Five or ten minutes a day is a good beginning if you have been very inactive.
  • Wear comfortable, supportive shoes and cotton socks. Check your feet after exercise for any signs of poor fit or injury.

Carry a diabetes identification card.

  • Check your blood sugar before and after exercise. This is especially important for anyone who takes insulin, a sulfonylurea or a meglitinide. These medicines may create risk for low blood sugar.
  • Carry something to eat that contains glucose. Use it to prevent or treat low blood sugar if needed.
  • Stretch and warm up at the beginning of your activity. This helps prevent injuries.
  • Drink more liquids that contain no calories, like water, when exercising.
  • If you have leg or chest pains during exercise, stop exercising and call your doctor.
  • Avoid exercising if your fasting blood sugar is above 300 mg/dL (16.7 mmol/L) or under 70 mg/dL(3.9 mmol/L).
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