Have Diabetes? Make a Move

Staying active will do more than just help you lose weight.

Medically Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on June 22, 2015
From the WebMD Archives

Ready to get fit? It'll help you take charge of your diabetes, burn stress, and make you feel good. Once your doctor gives you the green light, the choice is yours. Pick an activity you'll enjoy, and follow these tips for success.

Check your blood sugar (glucose) before and after exercise. "It's a motivation tool," says Jacqueline Shahar, MEd, a clinical exercise physiologist at Joslin Diabetes Center. "When you exercise and see your blood glucose improve, you'll probably do more because it's going in the right direction.”

Keep snacks on hand for low blood sugar. Be prepared. Bring fast-acting snacks to your workout in case your blood sugar drops too low while you exercise.

Wear comfortable shoes. Good shoes will help you avoid foot problems, which can be more serious when you have diabetes. They should be appropriate for your activity.

Wear a diabetes ID. Slip on a bracelet or necklace, or carry something that says you have the condition, lists an emergency contact, and indicates whether you take insulin.

But you might think you have no time for exercise. Jennifer Auyer of Nashua, N.H., knows what that's like. Between her job and her family, she couldn't find an easy spot in her schedule for working out.

Her father became her reason to find one. Auyer's dad had many health issues related to type 2 diabetes, including heart disease, a foot amputation, and vision problems. He died at age 61 from those complications.

Growing up, Auyer never saw her father exercise. He was a heavy man. She was overweight too, and knew she needed to make a change. When she heard about a weight-loss and exercise class at Joslin Diabetes Center, she signed up.

She learned strength-training exercises using elastic bands. She also started interval training, varying her intensity or pace to make her workout harder or easier.

Get stronger, and your muscles burn more blood sugar. You will also burn more calories, says Shahar, who taught Auyer's class.

To Auyer's delight, her blood sugar levels improved as well. "Almost immediately, I noticed a change.”

Ask Your Doctor

I'm new to exercise. How do I get started?

I try to be active, but I lack motivation. How can I change that?

How often should I check my blood sugar when exercising? What are some red flags?

Should I avoid certain activities?

Who can help me come up with an exercise plan I'll stick to?

Find more articles, browse back issues, and read the current issue of "WebMD Magazine."