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Exercise and Diabetes

Muscle contraction during exercise increases the absorption of glucose and improves insulin sensitivity. Research shows that physical activity can impact insulin and glucose for up to 24 hours.

The best exercises for those with diabetes

The exercise recommendations for individuals with diabetes are the same as those for most healthy adults. Both cardiovascular workouts and strength training are important for improving insulin sensitivity. Aim to exercise at least 150 minutes weekly, and try to spread this time out over five days to ensure regular activity. If you can't fit in a full 30-minute session at once, splitting the activity into sessions of at least 10 minutes throughout the day can have a similar impact on your health.

Try walking, biking, hiking, dancing, or low-impact aerobics. Include strength training at least twice weekly. Body weight exercises, weight machines, and resistance bands can all be used to perform exercises that strengthen the major muscle groups and improve glucose control.

Exercise safety tips

  • Always check with your healthcare provider before starting an exercise program.
  • Different exercises will affect your glucose in different ways.
  • Monitor your blood sugar before, during, and after workouts to better understand the right activities and intensities for you.
  • Proceed gradually. First, try a session of 10 minutes, monitor your glucose, and slowly increase to at least 30 minutes five times per week.
  • Be prepared for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) by keeping a drink or snack with 15 to 20 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates nearby, such as fruit juice or a banana.
  • Continue with the balanced diet you currently use to manage your diabetes.
  • Moderate exercise usually does not require an increase in carbohydrate intake.
  • Consider exercising with a friend as you learn how exercise influences your blood sugar response.


Lori Rice, M.S., is a nutritional scientist and author with a passion for healthy cooking, exercise physiology, and food photography.
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