Exercise or Physical
Activity and Diabetes
Physical activity and exercise are good for everyone
including people with diabetes.
What do we mean by exercise?
should think of this as any extra activity you do above the normal
day to day effort. It doesn’t just mean jogging or going to the
gym or anything dramatic. Physical activity can include gardening,
brisk walking, cycling, swimming and dancing as well as playing sports.
What are the benefits of exercise?
activity helps bring down and control your blood sugars but there are
many more advantages. Exercise can make you feel good, help you to control
your weight, improve your circulation, lower your blood pressure, reduce
the risk of heart disease, and reduce cholesterol and other fats in the
How much exercise should I do?
minutes of moderate physical activity on five or more days of the week
can improve health. Moderate activity means enough to raise your heart
beat and makes you feel warm and slightly- not uncomfortably- out of
How to get started?
want to be more active and are not used to exercising, it’s
a good idea to start gently and build up to what you want to do to
improve your fitness. Remember, even really gentle exercise is good
for you. Try to include more activity regularly in your everyday life.
You may use stairs rather than lifts, walk a couple of bus stops or
park further away from work or the shops. You could vary the type of
activity each time to avoid getting bored. You can think of the best
time of the day for activity, when your energy levels are highest.
How does activity affect my diabetes?
you start any new activity, speak to your diabetes team about any action
or adjustments you may need to make. Wear appropriate shoes and socks
when exercising and check you feet for blisters or cuts after activity.
See a chiropodist regularly. If your diabetes is treated with insulin
you also need to monitor your blood glucose levels frequently. Delay
activity if your blood glucose levels are higher then 15mmol/L, seek
medical advice and do not exercise. If blood glucose levels are lower
than 4mmol/L, have a sugary drink before you begin and monitor when you
have finished. Activity will use more energy than us usual and your blood
glucose levels will fall. As the body restocks its fuel supplies, hypo
may be more likely sometime later. Have starchy meals after activity
and a snack before you go to bed to reduce the chance of low blood glucose
levels while you sleep.
How do I avoid hypos?
dextrose tablets so that you can take them as soon as your blood glucose
levels fall. Do not inject insulin into areas near to the muscles that
you will be using during exercise. Always carry your diabetes ID card.
Seeking advice and what care to
You should have full advice about blood testing, what
the correct foods to eat are and when and how to adjust your treatment,
especially insulin. You must know how to take care of hypos. If you
already do exercise or you have a heavy manual job, or if you are starting
up something new, then how to deal with your diabetes at that time
should be worked through with you. Your medical team should give you
clear advice if there are any risks to you from doing exercise. If
you have problems with your diabetes during exercise your medical team
will advise you how to put them right so that you can carry on and
enjoy the sort of exercise that you want to do.