What are the benefits of exercise if I have diabetes?

Lifestyle changes such as exercise can help you manage or even prevent the disease. A three-year study called the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) conclusively showed that individuals with prediabetes can prevent the onset of developing the 2 diabetes by making dietary changes and increasing their physical activity. The study showed that even though some medications may delay the development of diabetes, healthy eating and exercise worked better.

Exercise helps manage your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol which play a part in managing your diabetes. An exercise program that you enjoy and make as a lifestyle change is going to be more beneficial than one that keeps you fluctuating up and down with your weight. Consult with a fitness professional to get you started or progress your existing program.

For people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, exercise can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, help with weight and allow you to use less insulin on the days you work out. But instead of using exercise to manage your diabetes, it is something you must account for in terms of food and insulin. For example, on days you have a 1-hour aerobics class after dinner, you may need to eat extra carbohydrates at dinner or inject less insulin. Talk to your doctor about how to adjust your treatment plan when exercising.

Exercise helps control blood sugar levels, increases energy levels, improves heart health and promotes emotional well-being. Barring other medical complications, the majority of people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes can participate in, and benefit from, at least 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. Always consult your healthcare team before starting a new exercise program.

Exercise has many positive health benefits, including short-term blood glucose control, and is recommended for most people with diabetes.

Because exercise typically has a blood glucose lowering effect, people with diabetes need to pay particular attention to their blood glucose levels before, during and after exercise. They should also take certain measures to prevent blood sugar emergencies.

It’s important to note that although exercise generally has a blood glucose lowering effect, for some people with diabetes an intensive workout can actually cause hyperglycemia, or high blood sugars, particularly if blood glucose levels were high prior to the workout. Monitoring blood glucose levels before and after working out and logging your glycemic response to different physical activities are important tools for safe exercise with diabetes.

Stacy Wiegman, PharmD
Pharmacy Specialist

Regular exercise helps control blood sugar levels. It also helps you stay in shape and keep your weight under control, and it provides many other health benefits. Because exercise affects blood sugar levels, people with diabetes—especially type 1 diabetes—need to plan well. This is especially true if you engage in intense or competitive exercise. You may need to take special steps before, during and after exercise to keep your blood sugar levels under control. Experts advise people with diabetes to get regular exercise.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.