Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

From the American College of Sports Medicine

Why Is Weight Loss Important?

According to the NIH, approximately 80% of all people with type 2 diabetes are overweight, and though more research is needed before medical science can fully explain the relationship between diabetes and weight, there is no doubt that exercise, in combination with a carefully controlled diet, helps people to lose weight. With weight loss comes improved circulation and lower blood pressure. Furthermore, people who are 20% or more over their normal weight have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The NIH emphasizes that exercise alone is not usually effective for weight loss unless accompanied by an appropriate reduced-calorie diet.

What Kind of Exercise Is Best?

Recent studies suggest that the ideal type of exercise regimen for individuals with diabetes is one that emphasizes an all around approach. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, exercise programs that address cardiovascular conditioning, muscular strength, and flexibility yield the best total fitness for all people, including those with diabetes. In combination with a controlled diet, this "cross training" is the best way for individuals with diabetes to achieve overall fitness, combat cardiovascular disease, and control blood sugar levels.

So, what exercises should you do? Do something you enjoy so you will stick with it. Make it something you can do at least three days a week, and five would be better. Aerobic exercises are the most effective kind of activity for lowering blood sugar levels and combating cardiovascular disease. To obtain the aerobic training effect, you should be able to do an exercise for a minimum of 20-30 minutes without stopping. Exercise hard enough that you feel invigorated but not exhausted. Badenhop says, "A good way to tell that your exercise intensity is appropriate is that that your breathing rate increases, but you are still able to carry on a conversation."

The simplest way to exercise aerobically is by walking, especially if you are just getting into exercise. Walk outdoors when the weather is fine, or otherwise pick from a number of indoor possibilities. Besides inside walking tracks at gyms and recreation centers, you can choose from literally thousands of mall-walking programs. To find a mall-walking program near you, contact the National Organization of Mall Walkers, PO Box 191, Hermann, MO 65041. The only thing you need to begin your aerobic walking exercise is a good pair of shoes. Be sure your shoes fit well because diabetic foot neuropathy and reduced circulation could place you at an increased risk for blisters, ulcers, and infections. Foot care is especially important for people with diabetes. Badenhop highly recommends that people with diabetes have two pairs of walking shoes and alternate from day to day between pairs to help keep their feet dry.

Cardiovascular conditioning is the single most important aspect of an exercise program for a person with diabetes. Focus on fitting regular and frequent aerobic exercise into your schedule, but do it safely. Badenhop suggests the following tips for patients with either type of diabetes to insure that they exercise safely:

  • Monitor your blood sugar levels before and after exercise.
  • Eat foods such as bread, pasta, cereal, and rice 2-3 hours before exercise.
  • Don?t exercise on an empty stomach.
  • Avoid drinking any alcohol at exercise time.
  • Drink plenty of water 1-2 hours before exercise.
  • Exercise with someone who knows the warning signs of low blood sugar (see below).
  • Be sure to warm up for 5-10 minutes before exercising.
  • Check your feet regularly for blisters, scratches, and open wounds.

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