Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

Managing Diabetes with Exercise

WebMD Magazine - Feature

Two years ago, when Jennifer Auyer's father died at age 64 from complications related to type 2 diabetes, she faced a turning point in her own struggle with the disease.

Her father's diabetes had led to heart disease, a quadruple bypass, a foot amputation, and vision problems, among other serious health troubles. "It was a really painful experience, for him and for all of us," says Auyer, 40, of Nashua, N.H.

Recommended Related to Diabetes

10 Diabetes Diet Myths

"Diabetes diet." Simply hearing these words may be enough to make you feel overwhelmed or frustrated. Perhaps you have said, or heard someone else express, one of these thoughts: Eating too much sugar causes diabetes. There are too many rules about choosing foods that are OK in a diabetes diet. You have to give up all your favorite foods when you're on a diabetes diet. These three statements are all myths about diabetes diets. Take a closer look at these and other myths to find out...

Read the 10 Diabetes Diet Myths article > >

Four years ago, she, too, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, shortly after giving birth to her child, Grace. "If I were to pass away in 20 years, where would my daughter be?" she asks.

Deciding to "Do Differently" with Type 2

When Auyer was growing up, she never saw her father, a heavy man, exercise. She had become overweight, too. In addition to caring for Grace, she commutes to Boston to work as director of sales for a hotel company. But she eventually decided her busy life could no longer be an excuse to keep from getting into shape.

"I said, 'I don't want to go through what he went through.' I was following the same path, and what am I going to do differently? I wanted to find something to help me. I was desperate."

When she found out about a weight loss and exercise class at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, she signed up fast. In the course, Jacqueline Shahar, MEd, a clinical exercise physiologist at Joslin, taught her to do the best exercises for people with type 2 diabetes.

Strength and Interval Training for Diabetes

For example, Auyer is now a believer in resistance training and works out with elastic bands to improve muscle strength. This form of strength training helps patients use glucose more efficiently, Shahar says. "If we can get them to do some resistance training, they're going to be able to increase their muscle mass so they're actually burning more glucose."

Other payoffs come, too. "They increase their metabolism and they lose weight," Shahar says. Resistance training also helps people with diabetes improve their cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, and reduce abdominal fat. It benefits posture and helps strengthen muscles to prevent injuries.

In another big step, Auyer began interval training, which involves repeatedly mixing bouts of high-intensity aerobic activity with less intense work -- the segments are called "intervals." For example, you can pedal fast on a bike for 30 seconds, then go at a slower speed for 90 seconds. Altering the speed and intensity of the workout challenges the muscles, helping burn more calories, boost fitness, and improve insulin sensitivity, according to Shahar. "That's actually my favorite," Auyer says of interval training. "It keeps everything fast-paced and fresh."

At home, long stretches of treadmill walking bored her. But now, she'll walk on the treadmill for 10 minutes, then run for another few minutes. "Then I'll jump off and do the resistance bands for a few minutes, then squats or side steps, then maybe I'll jump back on the treadmill for 10 minutes," Auyer says. "The next thing you know, an hour has gone by, and I feel so invigorated."

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 and you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Woman holding cake
man organizing pills
Close up of eye

Woman serving fast food from window
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Middle aged person
are battery operated toothbrushes really better

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
type 2 diabetes
food fitness planner
Are You at Risk for Dupuytrens Contracture

WebMD Special Sections