New Exercise Guidelines to Help Manage Diabetes

Your health care provider has probably recommended that you stay active to keep your blood glucose levels stable.  This is because daily exercise helps your insulin work more effectively.  According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA),staying active most days of the week means better health outcomes for people with diabetes, or who are at risk for diabetes.

What is considered staying active?

According to the ADA, staying active includes:

  • At least 3 minutes of light activity, such as walking, leg lifts, overhead arm stretches, or side lunges, if you’re sitting or being inactive for 30 minutes or more.
  • Moderate aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, biking, swimming, water aerobics, walking stairs, or jumping rope, for 150 minutes (2 ½ hours) each week.
  • Strength exercises, using free weights or resistance bands, 2 to 3 days a week, preferably every other day.
  • 2 to 3 days a week of stretching and exercises like yoga or tai chi to help stay flexible and to maintain balance.

Should my activities depend on the type of diabetes I have?

If you have type 1 diabetes, you are more at risk of getting low blood glucose levels after you exercise. You’ll want to make sure that your carb intake is timed properly, and that you check your blood glucose levels regularly during exercise to prevent blood glucose lows. You might even need to lower your insulin dosage. Interval training, or alternating short periods of low and high impact exercises, is safer than just aerobic exercise for those with type 1 diabetes. Consult with your health care provider to plan an exercise regime that’s best for you.

If you have type 2 diabetes, try to do moderate aerobic and resistance exercises for 30 minutes a day most days of the week. This will help you reduce and manage your weight, reduce your risk of  heart disease, and improve your blood glucose levels.

If you have prediabetes, or are at risk for diabetes, you should try to follow the ADA recommendations above, and also try to stay active in your normal daily activities.

Women who are pregnant and who have pre-existing diabetes, or are at risk for gestational diabetes, should do moderate exercise most days of the week for 20 to 30 minutes a day.

Children with diabetes should follow the same exercise guidelines as youth without diabetes, which is 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise at least 3 days a week.

How can I be more active?

It is important that you always talk to your health care provider before starting any exercise program. The type of activity you should do depends upon your age, the type of diabetes you have, your overall health status, and whether you have any diabetes-related issues. You can always increase your steps a little bit each day by:

  • Walking in place for a few minutes every hour, especially if you’re sitting at work or watching television.
  • Taking an extra lap around the grocery store when shopping.
  • Parking a little bit further away from the entrance at work or at the store.
  • Walking your dog each day for about 15 minutes.
  • Joining a walking group at your local mall or community center.
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