Exercise With Diabetes: Tips for Working Out

You may have heard exercise helps you burn extra sugar in your body and that it can make your body more sensitive to insulin, which is a good thing. It’s true! Exercise can also bust stress and boost your mood and overall health. Here’s how to get moving, ideally 30 minutes a day.

Exercise Safely

  • Get your doctor’s OK before starting an exercise program. Make sure your doctor reviews your diabetes drugs.
  • Carry at least 15 grams of a fast-acting carbohydrate in case of low blood sugar. It might be a half-cup of fruit juice or glucose tablets or gels that equal 15 grams.
  • Wear well-fitting shoes that are for the activity you’re doing, and choose athletic polyester socks. They dry quicker and cause less friction than all-cotton socks.
  • Inspect your feet before and after exercise. Check for blisters or sores.
  • Drink plenty of fluid before, during, and after exercise.
  • Wear a medical ID bracelet or carry a medical ID in your pocket.
  • Check your blood sugar level before and after exercise to make sure it’s in your target range. Your doctor can tell you what it should be before you start exercising. This is very important if you take insulin. After an intense workout or exercising for a long time, you may want to eat something with at least 15 grams of carbohydrates within 2 hours. This will help you avoid low blood sugar.
  • If you become shaky, anxious, or more sweaty than usual, or feel a change in your heartbeat, stop exercising right away and check your blood sugar. If it is low, follow your doctor’s advice about how to treat it.
  • Always warm up for 5 to 10 minutes at the start of your workout. For instance, walk or bike slowly. Do 5 to 10 minutes of cool-down and gentle stretching at the end.

Quick Gym-Free Workouts

Anything that gets your heart pumping and makes you break a sweat will do. You don’t need a health club membership or personal trainer. And here’s a little secret: You don’t have to do 30 minutes all at once. Ten minutes in the morning, 10 minutes in the afternoon, and 10 minutes after dinner is just fine.


Here are some easy daily activities that count toward your daily goal.

  • Walk the dog. If you don’t have a pet, walk with a friend or neighbor. Or get some work buddies to join you in a lunchtime stroll.
  • Rake leaves, mow the lawn, or dig in the dirt to clean up your garden.
  • Play tag with your children or grandchildren.
  • Ballroom dance. You can also take dance lessons -- modern, ballet, or hip-hop. It doesn’t matter what type of dance you choose, as long as you get moving.
  • Roller skate. It burns about 225 calories per hour and uses muscles that may be rusty.
  • Play tennis or any team sport. You’ll make some new friends and stay active.
  • Swim. It's a great total body workout and helps you relax. It’s also a low-impact workout that is easy on your joints.
  • Take an evening after-dinner walk. Walking at the end of day can help you unwind and feel less stressed after a busy day. Challenge yourself with plenty of hills and new routes.
  • Wash your car or clean the house. Even if you get your closets in order instead of doing a deep cleaning, you’re still moving.

Try to sneak activity into your day when and where you can:

  • When doing work around the house, pump up some fun music and make all your movements bigger. Squat while you work: Bend from the hips and knees like you're sitting down in a chair. Make sure your knees don't go farther forward than your toes.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you’re going to a high floor, get off a couple of floors below and climb the rest of the way.
  • Don't call or email your colleagues at work. Walk over to a co-worker’s desk for a face-to-face.
  • Walk or pace when you're on the phone, at home, or at work.
  • Park your car at the far end of the parking lot. And bring your bags out to the car after every purchase.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on May 18, 2019



Familydoctor.org: “Diabetes and Exercise.”

Medicinenet.com: “Diabetes & Fitness: Get Moving! -- with Richard Weil, MEd, CDE.”

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC): “What I need to know about Physical Activity and Diabetes.” 

Ann Levine, diabetes clinical nurse specialist, Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, N.Y.

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