Diabetes and exercise

Exercise can help you manage your diabetes because it burns blood glucose.

Diabetes and Exercise

Physical fitness is an important — but often overlooked — part of diabetes management.


Exercise is really any kind of physical activity that gets you up and moving. That includes taking a walk, using the stairs, even doing work around the house, yard or garden. Ideally, you should have 30 minutes of activity every day.


Physical activity can help you manage your diabetes because it burns your blood glucose for energy and helps your body better use insulin. And, activity has many other benefits. It's good for your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. It keeps you strong, flexible, and is an essential part of maintaining a healthy weight.

Perhaps the hardest thing about exercise is finding the time. But those 30 minutes can be divided into three 10 - minute chunks for the same good effect!

Exercise and blood glucose monitoring

For people with diabetes, being physically active helps insulin work more efficiently and generally lowers blood glucose levels.

People with diabetes should take extra care before exercising because physical activity lowers blood glucose. It's a good idea to consult your healthcare team before starting an exercise program. That way you'll know how to adjust food and medication with the physical activity, and how to react if your blood glucose is too high or too low before, during or after your workout. One way to get immediate feedback on the impact of physical activity is to monitor your blood glucose. How often you test will depend on:


  • The schedule you've set with your healthcare team
  • Your level of BG control
  • Your medication (or therapy type)
  • How much your blood glucose fluctuates during the day

Being aware of your blood glucose level can help you and your doctor modify your medication dosage or food plan, or switch you to a physical activity that's more effective for you.

For people with type 1 diabetes

The American Diabetes Association recommends that if your fasting glucose is above 250 mg/dL and you have ketones in your urine (especially before or during exercise), talk with your doctor about a specific plan of action.

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