Be Active

Exercise and Diabetes

Physical activity will benefit a person with diabetes in the following ways:

  • Increases blood circulation
  • Keeps joints flexible
  • Decrease body weight
  • Feel better physically and mentally
  • Helps insulin to work better
  • Relieves stress
  • Strengthens your heart, muscles, and bones
  • Reduces risk for heart disease, stroke, and other chronic diseases
  • Lowers blood glucose (sugar), blood pressure, and cholesterol

See how an exercise program helped Ken Sanders control his diabetes.

It is important to monitor your glucose levels. You should be able to prevent hypoglycemia during exercise by following this advice:

  • Make sure you take your prescribed medicine, do not skip meals and eat a carbohydrate snack before and during physical activity, and monitor your blood sugar regularly.
  • Be sure to talk to your diabetes educator or your primary care physician on how to keep your blood sugars under control.
  • Follow a regular routine of exercising, eating your meals, and taking medicines at the same time each day.
  • Check your blood glucose before and after exercise.
  • Carry a rapid-acting carbohydrate with you.

If you do not exercise regularly, talk to your doctor BEFORE starting an exercise routine. As you begin a new program, you may want to follow these recommendations:

  • Always begin a new physical activity program by talking to your doctor.
  • Start slowly and gradually increase your endurance.
  • Tell your doctor what kind of exercise you want to do so adjustments can be made to your medicine and meal plan, if necessary.
  • Aerobic exercise increases your heart rate and endurance. Examples are brisk walking, low-impact aerobics, swimming, bicycling.
  • Increase your physical activity by engaging in small steps to help in developing big results. Examples include: parking farther away from the store in parking lots, walk during work breaks; take your dog for a walk, etc.
  • Exercise should be performed consistently so that a regular pattern of diet and insulin dosage can be maintained.
  • Ideally, a diabetic should perform a similar exercise program everyday within 1 hour of consuming a meal or snack.
  • Be careful exercising when your medicine is reaching its peak effect.

For most people, it is best to aim for 30 minutes of physical activity per day at least 5 days of the week. If you haven't been active recently, start out with 5 or 10 minutes a day and work up to more time each week.

If you are trying to lose weight, you may want to exercise more than 30 minutes a day. Aim for 60- 90 minutes a day to lose weight. If time is a factor, split up your activity for the day by trying a brisk 15 to 20-minute walk after each meal.

For strength training, aim for 2-3 times per week, exercising all of your major muscle groups at least once. With strength training, you burn more calories, even at rest.

University of Utah Exercise Program for people with Diabetes - contact:
Sheldon Smith MS, CDE
Clinical Research Coordinator, Division of Physical Therapy, University of Utah
Diabetes Exercise Program Coordinator, University of Utah
801- 581-6696

Learn more about managing your daily diet.

A Guide for People with Diabetes: Take Care of Your Feet for a Lifetime

For more information about diabetes and exercise, visit the American Diabetes Association web site.

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