Safe Exercise Tips for Diabetics

Table of contents for Diabetes: Easy Help at Last!

  1. Easy Activity Tips for Diabetes Prevention & Improvement
  2. Easy Weight Tips for Diabetes Prevention and Improvement
  3. Safe Exercise Tips for Diabetics

Let’s answer some questions as to what is safe exercise for diabetics, on checking with your doctor, and adjusting your glucose level. Information is based on article excerpts by Karen Kemmis, footnoted below.

What Exercise is Best?

Don’t groan about this one. In Part 1, we covered all kinds of common ways to increase activity in your daily life, but the truth still remains that aerobic activities are the most beneficial for people with diabetes and, more specifically, type 2 diabetes. Aerobic exercise should last more than 10 minutes and uses multiple muscle groups – preferably arms and legs – in a continuous movement. Aerobic activities should not make you short of breath.(1)

Should I Check First with My Doctor?

If you have not had a stress test, you should only do low-level physical activities until a stress test is done. Then, the level of exercise should be based on stress test results and what you are comfortable with. A good exercise program is 20 to 60 minutes, 4 to 7 days a week. If you are not in good enough shape to exercise this long, you can do several 10-minute sessions throughout the day to reach your exercise time.(1)

What Are My Exercise Choices?

If you did not read Part 1: Easy Activity Tips for Diabetes Prevention & Improvement, please use the above link for a great list of ordinary ways to add physical activity to your daily life.

Kemmis says that walking, stationary bikes, and swimming or water exercise are some of the good choices. Water exercise is popular because it is less stress on your joints. Another interesting choice Dr. Kemmis makes is exercise DVDs for walking, dancing, and even sitting! Sitting exercises, which many people do not know exist, are a great option for people with lower extremity disorders. They actually accomplish an aerobic workout. (1)

How do I Exercise and Regulate my Glucose?

A. Realize that different activities will affect you differently. Blood glucose drops a little after walking but a lot after lifting weights, due to the number of muscles working and how long.

B. Keep track of your blood glucose when you do different activities and write down any changes you made with snacking and insulin. This helps you develop a plan for different activities.

C. Your doctor may suggest that a certain time of day is better than others for you to exercise.


D. You will need to prevent lows by eating a snack or taking less insulin. Keep a few snack choices on hand: sports drinks, juice, glucose tablets, skim milk, and raisins.

E. Most diabetics who exercise do blood glucose checks before, during, and after exercise. It can drop several hours after exercise, so be sure to check it before going to bed.

F. Try checking your glucose level 15 to 30 minutes after you’re done exercising. It’s best not to take insulin right away after exercise; that will cause it to be very low later on. However, there can be times when blood glucose goes up after hard exercising. If this happens to you, talk to your health care professional about what to do. (2)

1. Increasing Physical Activity Without Increasing Pain in Diabetic Patients, Karen Kemmis, PT, DPT, MS, CDE, Physical Therapist and Exercise Physiologist for Joslin Diabetes Center, Syracuse, Syracuse, NY

2. A-F are paraphrased excerpts from “The Ups and Downs of Exercise,” by Karen Kemmis, PT, DPT, MS, CDE, Diabetes and You, Fall 2008

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