Control diabetes with exercise

When it comes to managing, delaying or preventing diabetes, exercise plays a starring role, sharing the spotlight with your diet. In a world where it may feel like there are many factors you may have no control over, diet and exercise are two areas where you do have control.1

How does exercise affect blood sugar?

Our muscles store blood sugar (glucose) like little gas tanks. When we exercise, our muscles use a lot of this energy, taking sugar from the bloodstream — which may, in turn, lower blood sugar levels. Exercise may also help our bodies use insulin more efficiently.2 The American Diabetes Association recommends that adults get at least 30 minutes of heart-pumping activity five days per week.3 (Children should have at least 60 minutes — or more — each day.)4

Benefits of exercise

According to the Mayo Clinic, whether you have type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, prediabetes or no diabetes, exercise can do wonders for your body, your mind and your soul. It may help you:5

  • Use insulin more efficiently

  • Control blood sugar levels

  • Improve heart health

  • Tone muscles

  • Prevent weight gain  

  • Boost mood

  • Improve blood flow

  • Sleep better

  • Lower blood pressure

  • Cut cholesterol 

  • Increase energy 

When is the best time to exercise?

In the same way that when and what you eat can affect blood sugar levels, when you exercise, and what type of exercise you do may also make a difference in controlling diabetes. It’s important to plan ahead so that you know how your body responds to activity. For optimal health benefits, research shows that the best time to exercise, particularly if you have type 2 diabetes, is one to three hours after dinner.6

What type of exercise is best?

When it comes to managing diabetes, two types of exercise stand out in the crowd: aerobic and strength training.7

Aerobic exercise

You don’t have to spend hours in the gym to be more active. Here are some examples of ways to add exercise into your day:8

  • Walking briskly 
  • Cleaning
  • Cycling
  • Jogging/running
  • Playing tennis
  • Hiking
  • Swimming 
  • Dancing
  • Playing sports  

Strength training

Whether you call it strength training, resistance exercise or weight lifting, focusing on a specific muscle group may help increase lean muscle mass and improve your body’s ability to utilize insulin.9 As part of your diabetes management plan, shoot for resistance or strength training at least twice a week.10

You can achieve this through:11

  • Free weights
  • Weight machines
  • Resistance bands

How do I get started with exercising?

Check with your doctor

Talk to your doctor before starting any activity.12 When you start working out, you may need to change your meals or medications.

Start slow

If exercise isn’t already part of your day, add it gradually. A good suggestion is to start off with walking. Slowly increase your time spent getting in steps. Work your way up.13

Create a routine

Schedule your activity at the same time so you know how your blood sugar is affected.14 It doesn’t take long before an activity becomes a habit.

Exercise safety tips

Exercise — as part of your overall diabetes management plan — may have immense benefits. There are, however, also a few risks. One is hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, which may happen if you exercise more than you normally do.15 Safely exercise with diabetes by following a few recommendations.

Staying on track with exercise

Whatever you choose to do to get moving, try to find joy in movement. Use this time reconnect with yourself. We believe your long-term health is worth the investment!