What are the benefits of exercise for people with diabetes?

Exercise has numerous benefits for people with diabetes. And even though you know that exercise is good for you, you may be reluctant to start -- just one more thing to keep track of and make sure you're doing it right.

But exercise -- even just regular movement like gardening and housecleaning -- has many benefits for someone who has diabetes. These benefits include:
  • lowering your blood sugar, both while you're exercising and after you finish
  • increasing insulin sensitivity, so your cells absorb more sugar (glucose) from your bloodstream
  • aiding weight loss and weight management
  • decreasing risk for heart attack and stroke
  • fighting abdominal fat, the dangerous kind that accumulates around the waistline
  • reducing stress hormones, which contribute to numerous health problems
  • releasing feel-good chemicals in the brain, which can improve your confidence and sense of control
Beyond these major, proven benefits, exercise also may prevent certain cancers, improve your sex life, delay bone loss, preserve memory, boost your immune system, reduce arthritis and back pain, aid digestion, improve sleep and generally slow the problems associated with aging.

Being active provides huge benefits, from lowering blood glucose (sugar), cholesterol and blood pressure to helping with weight loss and improving mood. The good news is that even for people who are not passionate about exercise, there are many ways to be active.
The benefits of exercising if you have diabetes include:
  • losing weight if you need to or maintaining the weight you’re at
  • regulating your blood sugar levels without medicine by helping your body use insulin better
  • decreasing your cholesterol levels while improving levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol
  • lowering high blood pressure
  • reducing your risk for heart attack and stroke
William Lee Dubois
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism
Exercise is good for your diabetes because it makes sugar move out of your blood. It also helps your heart, your brain, your lungs, and your muscles all feel better and perform better.

You don't need to work out at the gym. In fact, let's all get out our pens and strike out the word exercise and write the word activity above it. You really don't need to exercise so much as to keep active, to keep moving. Just integrate some extra motion into your day. Park your car farther away from stores when shopping. Never take an elevator when stairs are handy. Dance with your children or grandchildren. Walk around the couch three times during commercials.

Or get a dog. Dogs need to be walked, and you'll both have a grand time.
Diabetes Warrior: Be your own knight in shining armor. How to stay healthy and happy with diabetes.

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Diabetes Warrior: Be your own knight in shining armor. How to stay healthy and happy with diabetes.

You survived the first year: now there is more to learn... Knights? Dragons? Diabetes?! Yep, armed with a wickedly sharp sense of humor and a medieval metaphor, Taming the Tiger author William Lee...
If you have diabetes, physical activity will help you: 

1. Improve blood glucose management. Activity makes your body more sensitive to the insulin you make. Activity also burns glucose (calories). Both actions lower blood glucose.

2. Lower blood pressure. Activity helps your heart pump stronger and slower.

3. Improve blood fats. Exercise can raise good cholesterol (HDL) and lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides. These changes are heart healthy.

4. Take less insulin or diabetes pills. Activity can lower blood glucose and weight. Both of these may lower how much insulin or diabetes pills you need to take.

5. Lose weight and keep it off. Activity burns calories. If you burn enough calories, you'll trim a few pounds. Stay active and you'll keep the weight off.

6. Lower risk for other health problems. Reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke, some cancers, and bone loss.

7. Gain more energy and sleep better. You'll get better sleep in less time and have more energy, too.

8. Reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Work out or walk off daily stress.

9. Build stronger bones and muscles. Weight-bearing activities, such as walking, make bones stronger. Strength-training activities, such as lifting light weights (or even cans of beans), make muscles strong.

10. Be more flexible. Move easier when you are active.

The most important goals of exercise for individuals with either type of diabetes are glucose control and for those with type two diabetes, weight loss. Exercise training is effective with both goals because it has a similar action to insulin by enhancing the uptake of circulating glucose by exercising skeletal muscle. Research has shown that exercise improves a variety of glucose measures, including tissue sensitivity, improved glucose tolerance, and even a decrease in insulin requirements. Thus, exercise has been shown to have a substantial positive effect on the prevention of type two diabetes.