Diabetes and Exercise: What's Stopping You?

Medically Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on May 18, 2021

Exercise does so many good things for you when you have diabetes. It lowers your blood sugar levels, can ease stress, and helps you lose extra weight. So what's stopping you?

Here's a look at six common hurdles and how to get over them and on track.

1. I don't have time to exercise.

Ideally, you should move at a pace that gets your heart rate up and makes you sweat for 30 minutes most days of the week. But if you're tied up with work, school, or family activities, find little pockets of time whenever you can.

Park farther away in the parking lot. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk around the field while the kids are at soccer practice.

Be creative to fit in exercise. Little moments of movement add up to a more active lifestyle.

2. I don't know what exercises to do.

You don't need to join a gym or find a personal trainer. Start out by simply going for a walk. Begin with a 5-minute walk and slowly build from there.

You can also find free exercise videos online. Or, join an exercise class at a church or community center.

3. It's too cold/hot/rainy/whatever.

Who says you have to go outside? Walk laps in your house, or walk up and down the stairs. Play an active video game like Wii Fit. Put on some music and dance around. Go to the mall, or find a high school or YMCA with an indoor track, and walk in comfort.

4. It hurts to exercise.

See your doctor to find the source of your pain. Make sure you don't have a problem that needs treatment.

If you get the OK to start exercising, try non-impact exercises like swimming, biking, and using elliptical machines. Look for exercise videos made for people who have pain.

5. I can't stick with it.

Get an exercise buddy to walk with you, or take fitness classes together. When someone else is counting on you to go for a hike, work out, or ride bikes, you'll be less likely to make an excuse. The two of you will keep each other on track, and you won't want to let each other down.

6. I just don't feel like it.

Sometimes just knowing that exercise helps you fight diabetes isn't enough to get you off the couch. So find some other reason to get moving.

Do you want to look great in a swimsuit on vacation? Do you want to feel good enough to dance at a wedding?

Also, think of a non-food reward, like a massage or a movie, and treat yourself when you've exercised every day for a week.

Show Sources


American Diabetes Association: "What is Exercise?" "Overcoming Barriers."

Dawn Sherr, registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator; practice manager, American Association of Diabetes Educators.

University of California, San Francisco, Diabetes Education Online: "Getting Started With Exercise."

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