Exercise Tips for People with Diabetes

Written by Julie M. Gentile

You know you need to exercise to help manage your diabetes—whether it's type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes. We've put together this quick list of tips about how to get the most out of exercise.

A blend of aerobic exercise, weight lifting, and stretching (eg, yoga) has tremendous benefits for your health. To learn more about why exercise is so beneficial to people living with diabetes, see our article about the benefits of exercise.

Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when exercising with diabetes:

A Note for People with Type 1 Diabetes
Blood glucose levels can fluctuate when you exercise. Stay on top of your blood glucose levels by monitoring them carefully before and after you workout. This can also help you determine how much insulin to take for future workouts.

If your blood glucose levels are <100 mg/dL before you exercise, eat a carbohydrate-rich snack. However, avoid exercise completely if your fasting blood glucose levels are >250 mg/dL and ketones are present (meaning you have diabetic ketoacidosis) or if your blood glucose levels are >300 mg/dL, regardless of whether ketones are present.1 In either of those scenarios, go to the hospital immediately.

Exercise to Manage Diabetes
Exercise is extremely beneficial, but if you've been inactive for a long time, it's important not to rush into your workouts. Start with low-impact exercises, such as light walking or stretching. Gradually, you can build up to doing more advanced exercise, such as jogging and lifting weights.

As always, talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine—even if it seems basic. He or she can give you advice on what exercises to do as well as help design an exercise program to fit your needs.

Your doctor may also recommend certain diagnostic tests, such as an electrocardiogram (ECG) to evaluate your heart health, before he or she gives you the green light to exercise.

When done regularly and safely, exercise can be a highly effective way to manage type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes. As part of a healthy lifestyle, exercise can help you stay in shape and live well with diabetes.

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