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Exercise for Diabetes . . . But Wait

Some experts define physical activity as any movement that increases energy use while reserving the term exercise for planned, structured physical activity.(1) Regular exercise is thought to prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes.(2) In active Type 2 diabetes, exercise improves blood glucose control, reduces cardiovascular risk, contributes to weight loss, and improves well-being

.(3,4) Despite the immense benefits of exercise, for people with diabetes, there are also safety precautions. Here are a few notes designed to help keep people safe when exercising with diabetes.

  • Start at a moderate level and build up exercise intensity.
  • Keep an eye on blood sugar levels. One should check them frequently before and after exercise, especially if one is new to it. Exercise affects everyone’s blood sugar differently. Make a log and track blood sugar levels daily. This can provide insight as to how exercise generally affects each person’s blood sugar.
  • Bring a snack. Keep a snack of fast-acting carbohydrates on hand in case blood sugar drops low.
  • Do not exercise if blood sugar is low or too high. If blood sugar is lower than 100 mg/dl or higher than 250-300 mg/dl, exercise can make it easier for sugar levels to go into dangerous territory. Wait until the blood sugar level is in a better range before exercising.
  • Wear a form of ID that notes diabetes, especially if exercising alone.
  • Finally, before beginning any exercise routines, consult with an exercise physiologist. He or she will be able to discuss appropriate exercises and provide insight into how it may affect the overall diabetes management strategy.


  1. Colberg SR, Sigal RJ, Yardley JE, Riddell MC, Dunstan DW, Dempsey PC, Horton ES, Castorino K, Tate DF. Physical activity/exercise and diabetes: a position statement of the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care. 2016 Nov 1; 39 (11): 2065-79.
  2. Schellenberg ES, Dryden DM, Vandermeer B, Ha C, Korownyk C. Lifestyle interventions for patients with and at risk for type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2013 Oct 15; 159 (8): 543-51.
  3. Chen L, Pei JH, Kuang J, Chen HM, Chen Z, Li ZW, Yang HZ. Effect of lifestyle intervention in patients with type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis. Metabolism. 2015 Feb 1; 64 (2): 338-47.
  4. Lin X, Zhang X, Guo J, Roberts CK, McKenzie S, Wu WC, Liu S, Song Y. Effects of exercise training on cardiorespiratory fitness and biomarkers of cardiometabolic health: a systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of the American Heart Association. 2015 Jun 25; 4 (7) :e002014.

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