Exercise Tips for Diabetics

Exercising is one of the best things you can do to manage diabetes. Here’s how to do it safely.

If you have diabetes, one of the best things you can do to improve your health is to exercise. Physical activity not only helps you lose excess weight, but it can improve your sensitivity to insulin and lower blood glucose levels. Muscles use glucose better than fat does, so by building and using muscle, you can help keep your blood glucose levels in the target range.

Before you start a new exercise program or change your current fitness routine, it’s important to make sure you are exercising safely. Having diabetes means there are a few precautions you need to take and a few risks you need to be prepared for.

Here are some tips to keep you safe when you exercise:

  • Check with your doctor. Talk with your doctor before starting any new exercise to get the green light. Depending on the severity of your condition and your overall health, your doctor will advise you on what is appropriate for you to do and will provide you with guidelines to keep you safe and healthy. This is especially important if you have a history of heart disease, peripheral vascular disease or diabetic neuropathy.
  • Pay attention to your blood sugar. If you use insulin, consult with your doctor about what blood sugar readings are safe for exercise and how to adjust your insulin dose and food intake to allow for the changes in blood sugar that occur with exercise.
  • Be prepared for hypoglycemia. If your blood sugar levels drop quickly or get too low, you may experience hypoglycemia. This can happen during exercise or after you have finished. Always keep 15-20 grams of a fast-acting carbohydrate with you when exercising. Glucose tablets, hard candy or sports drinks are some options. Hypoglycemia is more likely to occur if you exercise strenuously or for a long time, skip a meal or don’t eat something shortly after finishing.
  • Don’t assume you need to eat more. Most people don’t need extra food, or extra carbohydrates, unless they’re exercising for more than an hour at a time. Stick to your regular meal plan with a focus on making healthy food choices unless your doctor has advised you to make a change.

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Review Date: October 21, 2016
Reviewed By: Perry Pitkow, MD
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