The relationship between exercise and good diabetes control is an important one! When you engage in an aerobic exercise (and, to a lesser degree, resistance training), a lot happens to your body to make sure the working muscles have enough oxygen and fuel. You breathe deeper, your heart pumps faster, and your blood vessels allow more blood to flow into muscle tissues. This can lower your blood sugar because your body uses more energy to fuel the increased workload. Physical activity also makes your body more sensitive to the insulin you already have on board; thus you may see a decrease in blood sugar levels even a few minutes after walking.

Benefits of personal fitness for a person with diabetes: exercise

Two men working out


    Decreases need for insulin and/or oral medication

  • Decreases insulin resistance and increases insulin sensitivity
  • Helps lower blood sugar levels
  • Helps control weight--especially with at least a half hour of aerobic exercise
  • Lowers triglycerides, the blood fats that contribute to clogged arteries
  • Increases HDL cholesterol, the good cholesterol that actually rids the bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood stream
  • Improves blood circulation throughout the entire body
  • Helps regulate blood pressure
  • Reduces stress and increases vigor
  • Tones muscles and increases strength and agility
  • Promotes a sense of well-being and energy
  • Promotes restful sleep
  • Delays some of the effects of aging

Exercise precautions

  • Always wear medical identification.
  • Carry a fast-acting sugar--approximately 15 to 30 grams of carbohydrates.
  • Exercise with another person, especially when exercising for longer than an hour.
  • Plan exercise by adhering to the proper time, by eating extra food before strenuous exercise or by down-regulating your insulin dosage as recommended by your doctor or diabetes nurse educator.

Diabetes in a Nutshell