Diabetes and Physical Activity

What You Should Know About Physical Activity Middle aged couple prepares to bicycle together.

Physical activity is important for everyone. For people with diabetes it is vital!

When you exercise you may:

The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with diabetes try to be physically active for 30 minutes on most days of the week. In addition, resistance exercise should be included to help improve insulin sensitivity. Examples of resistance exercise include lifting weights and exercises using weight machines.

What To Do

Talk with your medical provider before beginning a program of physical activity that is more vigorous than brisk walking. Start slowly. Try to be physically active for 30 minutes a day. You may want to divide your exercise into two or three sessions during the day. Warm up and cool down to prevent injuries.

General guidelines for physical activity

Do not exercise

Stop exercise

Check with your medical provider and your diabetes educator for other precautions and suggestions.

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“Getting enough exercise has been really tough. Everyone says ‘walk’, but with my back problems, that’s not so easy. I tried going out and walking for 30 minutes and it wiped me out! Yet, I know that it will help me lose weight, which is good for my diabetes and my back. And finally it hit me - maybe my problem was that I was trying to do too much too fast. I haven’t been exactly physically fit!

“So I tried again, but this time I started really slow. The first week five minutes was all I could manage. When I got to the point where I could do 10 minutes, I started doing a fast part in the middle. At first it was five minutes at a stroll, three minutes going fast, and five minutes slow. (And I do it where it’s mostly flat, not going up a hill!) Each week I increased the fast part by about three minutes. When I got up to 15 minutes, I found that I needed two weeks before I could increase the time. Sometimes you run into that kind of thing. You have to listen to your body.

“It will take awhile to get up to the 30 minutes a day, but I think I can make it now. (My goal is 30 minutes five days a week.) I have a backup plan for when my back is bad. There are all kinds of exercises I can do with my arms that can really give me a workout. When the weather is bad, I can go to the grocery and walk up and down the aisles. Or I can march in place briskly while I watch the evening news. It looks silly, but so what? Whatever works!”

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