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Get Active Safely With Diabetes

Exercise is an important part of a diabetes care plan. Jump-start your routine with these tips.

By Susan G. Warner, Contributing Writer

If you have diabetes, it doesn’t have to stop you from being active. Exercise is considered safe for most people with diabetes. 

But having diabetes can impact exercise recommendations, so it’s vital for you to speak with your doctor first, to find out how much and what types of activities are safe for you.

Adults with diabetes should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week. Try to spread your activity over at least three days — without missing more than two days in a row. Activity can be done in as little as 10 minutes at a time!

And try to do resistance training at least twice a week, provided you don’t have other complications from your diabetes which may limit your ability to participate in this type of exercise. A special note: Everyone, including people who have diabetes, should limit sedentary time to no more than 90 minutes at a time.

Start slowly and ease your way into a routine. Consider starting with 5 to 10 minutes of exercise most days of the week and gradually increase the time and intensity of activity until you meet your exercise goals.

Staying active regularly may help you:

  • Lower blood glucose and improve your A1C
  • Reduce blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Improve your body’s ability to use insulin
  • Lose weight or stay at a healthy weight
  • Improve your mood
  • Keep your heart strong
  • Stay flexible
  • Strengthen your muscles and bones
  • Sleep better

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Wear comfortable shoes that cushion and support your feet, and that fit well. Wear clothes that wick moisture from your skin and allow you to move easily.
  • Schedule time to exercise. If you don’t have 30 minutes to spare, split your workout into three 10-minute sessions.
  • Have a plan. Ask your doctor if you should check your glucose levels before, during and after exercise. He or she can tell you about symptoms to watch for if your blood sugar gets too low or too high. Ask about ways to avoid them and what to do if they happen. Symptoms of low blood glucose may include feeling weak or shaky, confused, irritable, anxious, hungry, tired or sweaty. Symptoms of high blood glucose may include increased thirst and frequent urination. Also follow your doctor’s recommendations for checking your urine for ketones, which means your body is using fat, not glucose, for energy. Keep water and healthy snacks handy when you exercise. Wear a medical ID bracelet or necklace in case of an emergency.
  • Buddy up. Invite coworkers, friends or family members to join you for walks or other activities. Being accountable to others may help you stay on course.
  • Keep track of your activities and accomplishments. Set goals for yourself and check them off as you accomplish each one.

Vary your routine with activities such as brisk walking, biking, swimming or water aerobics, dance, group exercise classes, stretching or lifting weights.


American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes–2015. Accessed: October 5, 2015.
American Diabetes Association. Physical activity is important. Accessed: October 5, 2015.
National Diabetes Education Program. Move more. Accessed: October 5, 2015.

Updated October 20, 2015