Exercising with Diabetes

Written by Julie M. Gentile

Exercise is paramount for good health and for managing your diabetes, plus it can be incredibly fun. Whether you have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, exercise plays a significant role in controlling your condition. Exercising with diabetes assists with maintaining your goal blood glucose levels, and it can help insulin or diabetes medications work more efficiently.

Exercise also works to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check, helping to prevent long-term diabetes complications.

In addition, exercise can actually help stabilize and regulate your blood glucose levels for hours—even after you stop exercising. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults should strive for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (eg, brisk walking) per week and 2 or more days a week doing muscle-strengthening exercises (eg, lifting weights).1 In addition, a well-rounded exercise routine should also incorporate flexibility (eg, yoga) exercises.

But you don't have to fit in all your exercise requirements in on one day. In fact, you can break your workouts into smaller increments throughout the day. For example, instead of walking for 30 minutes straight, break it up into three 10-minute segments.

If you're new to exercise, you can make an appointment with a physical therapist or personal trainer. They can teach you how to incorporate exercise into your lifestyle, as well as specific exercises you can do to help you manage your condition.

We've broken this article into 2 sections: exercising with type 1 diabetes and exercising with type 2 diabetes.

Exercising with Type 1 Diabetes
When you exercise, your body—more specifically, your muscles—uses glucose as fuel (energy). Exercise has a similar effect as insulin on the glucose in your body: Exercise can enhance the absorption of glucose into your cells, helping better regulate your blood glucose levels.

Exercising can help prevent long-term diabetes complications. And in some cases, the amount of insulin you use can actually be decreased when you exercise regularly.

Here are some special considerations for exercising with type 1 diabetes:

Exercising with Type 2 Diabetes
With type 2 diabetes, exercising regularly is one of the best ways to control your condition, especially if you need to lose weight. Exercise helps you manage your type 2 diabetes, especially your blood glucose levels.

Below are some general exercise tips for type 2 diabetes:

For more tips on exercising with type 2 diabetes, read our article on how to lose weight (if you need to), how to navigate the various exercise options, and how to get started.

Exercise and Diabetes
Regular exercise can help control and treat type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. If you haven't already, talk to your doctor before starting an exercise routine for type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes. Your doctor can help you find an exercise plan that fits with your lifestyle.

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Diabetes and Exercise: Walking