Diabetes and Physical Activity
Being physically active is a great way for everyone – including those with diabetes – to stay healthy and feel great.
For those with diabetes, physical activity can help:
- Manage blood glucose levels
- Reduce medication needs
- Manage weight
- Avoid diabetes-related complications
Adults should aim for at least 150 minutes per week – or at least 30 minutes a day for five days per week. Choose activities that you enjoy so that you’ll be more likely to stick with it. For example:
- Go for a walk or hike.
- Swimming or cycling.
- Fitness or yoga classes.
- Strength training.
You can also increase your level of physical activity by making small changes throughout the day:
- Take the stairs more often.
- Have a walking meeting at work.
- Get off the bus a few stops early and walk the rest of the way.
- Park at the far end of parking lots.
Something to consider when increasing physical activity with diabetes.
If you engage in prolonged (longer than 1 hour) and/or vigorous physical activity, you may be at risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) – especially if you take insulin. However, the health benefits of physical activity far outweigh the risk. You just have to be sure to fuel your body for physical activity.
Follow these tips to safely add physical activity to your day:
Before physical activity – About 30 to 90 minutes before physical activity, eat a small meal or snack that contains both protein and carbohydrates (e.g., fruit and cheese, peanut butter and banana sandwich, small handful of nuts).
During physical activity – If you engage in prolonged and/or vigorous physical activity, you may need to eat carbohydrates during physical activity. Get into the habit of having fast-absorbing carbohydrates (e.g., glucose tablets, hard candy, fruit juice) nearby, in case your blood glucose levels go too low.
Check your blood glucose levels – It is important to check your blood glucose level before, during and after physical activity – especially when increasing physical activity or adding new activities.