Diabetes and exercise: The importance of movement

By Evie Fisher

Diabetes and exercise

Exercise is highly recommended for managing type 1 and 2 diabetes mellitus as it can be beneficial in a multitude of ways. These benefits can range from increasing insulin sensitivity, lowering body adiposity and improving cholesterol 1. For adults, experts recommend at least 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise a week, spread out over at least 3 days and should avoid taking more than 2 days between to break 2.

Risks of exercising

However, exercising with diabetes can lead to issues if not monitored properly. People with this condition should check their blood pressure before, during and after any exercise to keep track of how their body responds to it to avoid any complications arising from fluctuating blood sugar levels. In general, it is best to avoid any strenuous, high impact or isometric exercise. This can involve physical activity such as heavy lifting, prolonged weight-bearing activities, or any exercise where the head is positioned below the waist. Those who would like to introduce a fitness routine in their lives should speak with their doctor first, who can advise on how long they should exercise for and how their medication might be impacted.

So, what is the best exercise?

Deciding on a type of exercise should take into consideration one main question - which exercise is most enjoyable? After all, the best way to ensure that this is maintained regularly is by finding one that fits into everyday life. Trying out different physical activities is a great way to discover which one will be most suitable, as each person with this condition should tailor their fitness routine based on their needs and expectations. Recommendations usually consist of swimming, gardening, cycling and walking 3. These are all moderately intense activities that can be gradually introduced into a weekly routine, which is especially important if it is after a period of inactivity.


Overall, movement and physical activity is highly advised for the management of type 1 and 2 diabetes. It is important for diabetics to seek advice from a healthcare professional to help figure out which type of exercise would be most beneficial, to ensure that it can be carried out safely. However, there is understandably always going to be reservations for those dealing with diabetes to begin frequently exercising, as they could feel it will be hard to maintain their blood sugar levels or make their condition worse. The main takeaway should be to introduce regular movement into a daily routine, in the best way individually, and to celebrate the small victories.

  1. Diabetes UK
  2. DiabetesJournals.org
  3. Insider.com