Preventing and Managing Diabetes with Exercise


You may be aware that nutrition is a big part of preventing and managing diabetes, but did you know that exercise can play a factor as well?

That’s because diabetes is a metabolic disease, and movement is a large part of that process. When you exercise, your muscle cells more easily use insulin to take up glucose from your blood. While this causes the short-term reduction of sugars in your bloodstream, there are also long term effects. Regular exercise can lower your glucose levels over time.

So now you may be wondering, how much and what kind of exercise should I be doing? And of course the answer is: that depends. It’s always best to start out slowly and gradually increase frequency, duration, and intensity as you improve; but especially if you already have been diagnosed with diabetes, you will want to monitor how small amounts of exercise affect your glucose levels and go from there. Preventing hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is very important for those who have diagnosed diabetes, so checking blood sugar levels before and after a workout is recommended. You are more likely to end up hypoglycemic while exercising if you have skipped a meal, recently taken insulin or an insulin secretagogue, exercised for a long duration, or exercised strenuously.

Cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise is the most important kind of exercise for preventing type 2 diabetes or improving insulin sensitivity. The minimum recommendations for these health benefits is 30 minutes per day, 3 days a week, at a moderate intensity. Note: make sure you are cleared for exercise by your physician, and find out if you have any exercise restrictions before beginning a new routine. If you are not currently active, you may want to start with 15-20 minutes of a low intensity exercise (brisk walking, recumbent/stationary bike, etc.) and work your way up from there. Moderate intensity activities would include jogging, stair climbing, rowing, swimming laps, taking a dance class, using an elliptical at a moderate pace with resistance, and so on. Strength training, stretching, and balance exercises are also recommended for managing/preventing diabetes.

For more information on how to get started and stay motivated, please visit:

~Shara Swager, BS, CSCS, IC,  Fitness Specialist, Health As We Age, Inc.