How Exercise Affects Diabetes
Regular Physical Activity
Exercise helps control blood sugar levels, increases energy levels, improves heart health, and promotes emotional well-being. Barring other medical complications, the majority of people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes can participate in, and benefit from, at least 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. Always consult your healthcare team before starting a new exercise program.
Type 1 Diabetes
Exercise has many positive health benefits, including short-term blood glucose control, and is recommended for most people with type 1 diabetes.
Because exercise typically has a blood glucose lowering effect, people with type 1 diabetes need to pay particular attention to their blood glucose levels before, during, and after exercise. They should also take certain measures to prevent blood sugar emergencies.
It’s important to note that although exercise generally has a blood glucose lowering effect, for some people with type 1 diabetes an intensive workout can actually cause hyperglycemia, or high blood sugars, particularly if blood glucose levels were high prior to the workout. Monitoring blood glucose levels before and after working out and logging your glycemic response to different physical activities are important tools for safe exercise with type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes
Leading a sedentary (or inactive) lifestyle is one of the major risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes, and the high incidence of obesity and overweight among people with type 2 is also highly correlated with inactivity. Starting a workout program can lower body mass and consequently decrease the insulin resistance of type 2 diabetes; studies have shown that people with type 2 diabetes who exercise regularly have better A1c profiles than those who don’t. Along with medical nutrition therapy, exercise is one of the first lines of defense in type 2 diabetes control.
In addition, exercise is a key tool in preventing one of the leading complications of type 2 diabetes—cardiovascular disease. Studies have shown that regular activity lowers triglyceride levels and blood pressure.1
1 American Diabetes Association. “Physical Activity/Exercise and Diabetes: Clinical Practice Guidelines.” Diabetes Care. 27: 58S-62S.
Reviewed by Francine Kaufman, MD. 4/08
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