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Best Diabetes Exercises

Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, just about any activity that gets your heart rate up or builds strength is a good idea. Anything from line dancing to table tennis can work. Here are a few to try.

  • Walk more -- briskly. For most people with diabetes, walking is a great choice. It's easy. You can do it anywhere. You don't need any gear besides a good pair of sneakers. If you have foot problems from diabetes, though, your doctor may advise you to do exercises that get you off your feet.  
  • Get off your feet. If you have poor blood flow and nerve damage, opt for low-impact exercises to protect your feet from injury. Swimming and biking are both good choices.
  • Consider tai chi or yoga. Some studies show that both are good ways to lower blood sugar if you have type 2 diabetes. They also help ease stress, expand your muscles' range of motion, and help improve balance, so you are less likely to fall.
  • Be safe when lifting weights. Starting a weight-training program can improve your glucose levels and how you feel. You want your routine to work major muscle groups in your upper and lower body and your core. If you have vision damage or kidney problems from diabetes, though, weightlifting can hurt blood vessels and worsen some conditions. In that case, talk to your doctor before you start lifting weights.

Diabetes and Exercise: Getting Started

  • Start slowly. If you haven't exercised in a while, begin with just 5 to 10 minutes a day. Build up by adding a few minutes or repetitions each week. 
  • Add to your daily activity. Exercise doesn't only happen when you're suited up in workout gear. Add a little extra movement during the day when you can. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park farther away from the grocery store so you have to take more steps to get there. Take a less direct route into the house. Any extra movement counts.
  • Relax, actively. You don't have to choose between exercise and TV. Set up a home treadmill, exercise bike, or exercise mat in front of the TV. Choose a couple of shows that you watch only when you're moving. Or divide watching a movie into 30-minute sessions, working out during each. You'll do most of your 150 minutes of aerobic exercise in just one movie.
  • Multitask. It's not only TV time that can double up as active time. Call a friend or relative when you're on a walk. Save a book or favorite magazine to read while you're on an exercise bike.
  • If you hate exercise, think about why. Write down the five things you think are worst about exercise. Then figure out how to make them better. If you think it's boring or lonely, join a class or go on walks with a friend. If you hate the gym scene, do it at home. If exercise feels too hard, try dropping down to an easier level and build up.