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It’s never too late to reap the benefits of exercise, whether you’re 45 or 95. First of all, it simply makes you feel good to move. By becoming more active, you can also lower your blood sugar to keep diabetes under control.

“You don’t need to run a marathon to get results,” says Dawn Sherr, RD, of the American Association of Diabetes Educators. “Walking, swimming, and playing with the grandkids are all great ways to get exercise.”

Follow these four steps to get started.

Step 1: Make a Plan

If you're just starting, ask your doctor which exercise is right for you. Ask if you need to adjust your diabetes medicine before you hit the trail or the pool.

Next, think about what you'll enjoy most. You’re more likely to stick with activities you like. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Walk outdoors or indoors on a track or in a mall
  • Take a dance class
  • Bicycle outdoors or ride a stationary bike indoors
  • Swim or try water aerobics
  • Stretch
  • Try yoga or tai chi
  • Play tennis
  • Take aerobics or another fitness class
  • Do housework, yard chores, or gardening
  • Try resistance training with light weights or elastic bands

If more than one of these appeals to you, go for them! In fact, combining cardio, like walking or swimming, with stretching or balance moves gives you a better workout. Any way you move will help lower your blood sugar.

How It Works

When you do moderate exercise, like walking, that makes your heart beat a little faster and breathe a little harder. Your muscles use more glucose, the sugar in your blood stream.  Over time, this can lower your blood sugar levels. It also makes the insulin in your body work better. You'll get these benefits for hours after your walk or workout.

Just remember you don’t have to overdo it. Strenuous exercise can sometimes increase blood sugar temporarily after you stop exercising.  Very intense exercise can cause the body to make more stress hormones which can lead to an increase in blood sugar.