Exercise and Diabetes: How a Trainer Can Help

Stay active with a trainer who can help manage your condition.

Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on February 26, 2017
From the WebMD Archives

Being active can lower your blood sugar level and keep your health on track. If you’re not sure where to begin, a personal trainer can pave the way.

Choose one who has experience working with people with diabetes. You can find a certified personal trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, the American College of Sports Medicine, or the American Council on Exercise.

Think of your trainer as a coach, educator, and confidant. He'll design an exercise program that matches your fitness level. You’ll meet on a regular basis, probably 2 or 3 days a week. You’ll work out alongside him, either in your home or at a gym.

Your trainer will help you carry out your plan safely and consistently. He’ll walk you through different exercises, making sure you use proper form. He’ll show you how to lift weights safely, and can teach you how to use cardio equipment properly.

“A trainer can help you stay focused and on track,” says John Saeger, president of GroundWorks Fitness in Doylestown, OH. Plus, with regular meeting times, it’s tough to bail on working out.

Make the Most of Your Sessions

Set up a plan. Before you start, make an action plan with your doctor about how to respond to low blood sugar. Let your doc know if your levels repeatedly drop during or after exercise.

Be present. “When you show up for your session, give 100% of your attention,” Saeger says. Ignore distractions, and keep your focus on your exercises.

Be steady. A session here and there won’t help you get fit. To see results, you have to be consistent. Create a regular training schedule that fits into your daily life.

Be open. If something doesn’t feel right, tell your trainer. “He’s there to help you and provide answers,” Saeger says. Let him know if you have any concerns.

Be mindful of your limits. Keep an eye on your blood sugar. You may have to eat a snack or avoid intense exercises.

Must-Do When Exercising With Diabetes

Yes, check your blood sugar. You may see a drop during or after a workout. Glucose may also spike during or after a high-intensity exercise. Test before and after your training sessions to learn how your body reacts to different activities.


Always carry a small snack, juice, or glucose tabs with you in case your blood sugar level falls too much. If your reading is low (100 mg/dL or lower) before you work out, have some carbs first.

Know when to draw the line. If your sugar is high before your session, test your blood or urine for ketones. If the test shows you have ketones, don't push yourself hard. Stick to easier, lower-intensity activities.

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John Saegar, certified personal trainer.

American Diabetes Association: “Fitness,” “Exercise and Type 1 Diabetes,” “Food & Fitness.”

American Council on Exercise: “Top Ten Reasons to Hire a Personal Trainer.”

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