Diabetes and Exercise: Key Steps to Getting Moving

What is the importance of exercise if you have diabetes? Research shows that daily exercise can help improve the body’s use of insulin. For a person with diabetes, that’s great news. Are you ready to exercise and feel better? Make sure your body is ready. To get the best out of your performance while managing diabetes, do the following:

  • Talk to your doctor. Ask for guidance on specific exercises that are most appropriate for you, especially if you’re dealing with any complications from diabetes (nerve damage, eye problems, etc.).
  • Start slowly. Take time to develop an exercise plan by thinking about what activities are realistic for you and choose the ones you think you can do.
  • Eat right. Make sure you have carbohydrate-based foods available for exercise and for the period following exercise. Add them to your meals if you plan on doing exercise, and adjust your insulin dose appropriately in anticipation of exercise.
  • Check your blood sugar. If it is too high (above 250 mg), wait before you exercise. Exercising strenuously may affect your blood sugar.
  • Be mindful of your medicinal needs. Talk to your health care provider about how to adjust your medicine in relation to the kind of exercise you’ll be doing. Prolonged or strenuous exercise can cause your body to produce adrenaline and other hormones that can counteract the effects of insulin and cause your blood sugar to rise. If you are exercising at your maximum capacity or performing an activity for several hours or more, your insulin and/or oral diabetic medicine may need to be changed.
  • Have a partner. If possible, work out with someone who knows you have diabetes and knows what to do if you have a low blood-sugar reaction.
  • Wear a medical identification tag. It’s important to stay safe and alert people of your medical issues in case there is a problem. So, or carry an identification card that states you have diabetes.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water before, during and after you exercise.
  • Stretch. Before you begin any exercise, warm up your muscles with stretching exercises. This will help prevent injuries.
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