When is the Best Time to Exercise When You Have Diabetes?

Choose the right time to work out for better blood sugar control.

Medically reviewed in July 2022

When it comes to exercise and managing diabetes, good timing can make a big difference. Regular workouts are a key tool to help you control your blood sugar level. And choosing the right time to exercise can help even more. Timing exercise for better blood sugar is a topic you'll want to discuss with your healthcare provider or certified diabetes educator (CDE). It's especially important if you take insulin to manage your diabetes.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) offers the recommendations below for timing workouts for better blood sugar levels.

Check your blood sugar level
The NIH recommends that people with diabetes check their blood sugar before working out, immediately after, and again sometime later (exercise can impact your blood glucose level for up to 12 hours). Working out longer than 45 minutes? Check your blood sugar during exercise, as well. If you're on medication to control your blood sugar, and workouts routinely cause low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), your healthcare provider may need to adjust your dosage.

Take extra care if you use insulin
Ask your healthcare provider for advice on what you should eat before, during, and after workouts, as well as if you need to adjust your insulin dose to compensate for physical activity.

Keep a carb-rich snack on hand
In the event you do experience hypoglycemia, a small snack, such as a half-dozen hard candies, fruit juice, or regular soda, can help raise your blood sugar level in a hurry. Ask your healthcare provider which snacks are best.

Maintain a consistent workout schedule
Exercising at the same time each day, and at the same intensity, makes it easier to keep your blood sugar level on an even keel. You may need to avoid strenuous workouts when you have ketones (chemicals your body produces when blood sugar is high and insulin is low) in your blood or urine. Exercising when you have ketones can make your blood sugar skyrocket.

Be active after meals
Trying to decide if you should exercise before or after dinner? A study from Old Dominion University found walking after a meal helps lower blood glucose levels better than a pre-supper stroll. It's a pleasant way to end the day–and it's good for your blood sugar.

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