Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Controlling Diabetes With Exercise

One of the most common questions we receive at BioFit and Wellness is related to diabetes and exercise. Although the results may vary from person to person, most people with diabetes need to exercise at least three to four times a week to properly manage the disease and reduce other diabetes-related illnesses.

Are there any risks related to exercising for people with diabetes?

Yes, there are some risks related to with diabetes and exercise; however, the benefits far outweigh the risks. Performing the proper exercise routines can ultimately change the way your body reacts to insulin. Regular exercise can make your body more sensitive to insulin; as a result, your blood sugar levels may fall too low (called hypoglycemia) after exercising. To be safe, you may need to check your blood sugar level before and after exercising. Your health-care professional should be able to tell you what your pre- and post-exercise blood sugar level should be. If your blood sugar is too low or too high right before you plan to exercise, it may be better to wait until the level improves. It is especially important to watch your blood sugar level if you exercise in really hot or cold conditions, because the temperature changes how your body absorbs insulin.

Here is a checklist for diabetics who are planning to begin a workout routine:

  • Talk to your doctor about the right exercise for you.
  • Check your blood sugar level before and after exercising.
  • Check your feet for blisters or sores before and after exercising.
  • Wear the proper shoes and socks.
  • Drink plenty of fluid before, during and after exercising.
  • Warm up before exercising and cool down afterward.
  • Have a snack handy in case your blood sugar level drops too low.

Remember, if you haven't been very physically active, try to begin your exercise routine gradually. Start out exercising for five to 10 minutes, and gradually increase your activity to at least 30 minutes. That's how long it takes most people to maximize the benefits of exercise.

Physical activity is essential for good health, especially for people with diabetes. A lifestyle that includes a healthy diet and plenty of physical activity can reduce your chances of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease. So, work with your health-care professional to develop a physical activity plan as part of your daily diabetes-management regimen.