Skip to content

Exercise for Diabetes Management

Exercise for Diabetes Management

By Katelyn Donohue, PT, DPT
Gaylord Specialty Healthcare Physical Therapy

Picture this: you (or someone you love) recently received a diagnosis of Diabetes Mellitus. Disbelief and shock are likely among the first reactions you experience. Perhaps this moves into denial, anger, fear, and/or relief. You likely have lots of questions and you may feel overwhelmed about where to start.

This is not an uncommon picture. In fact, approximately 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes. At some point, the 37-million Americans living with diabetes today received this same diagnosis and experienced much of the same reactions. Once the shock, fear, anger, etc., is behind you, it’s time to take action.

While diabetes management is not always simple, it is made simpler by understanding how to manage it effectively. One important way to do that is with exercise.

Exercise for Diabetes Management

Insulin, which is responsible for maintaining balanced blood sugar levels, is produced in the pancreas. In people with diabetes, insulin production is affected – either by a decrease or absence of insulin secretion (Type 1 Diabetes) or an inappropriate cellular response to insulin (Type 2 Diabetes) – which leads to increased blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia).

Good news! Exercise helps to increase insulin sensitivity, which lowers blood glucose levels. It can also lower insulin requirements for those living with Type 2 diabetes, improve cardiovascular function, reduce high blood pressure, assist with weight loss, and promote a healthy lifestyle by reducing stress and improving the overall quality of life. So, what’s the downside? That’s a trick question – there is no downside!

But first – an important note from the author: “Prior to starting an exercise regimen, it is important to consult with your physician to ensure that you are safe to participate in exercise. Before and after completing an exercise routine, you should check your blood glucose levels to confirm the value is normal. If blood sugar values are abnormal, avoid exercise to prevent serious complications related to hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, or diabetic ketoacidosis.” – Katelyn Donohue

Are you ready? These exercises are a great place to start:

Of course, taking charge of your health typically involves a two-pronged approach, which includes both exercise and nutrition. Both are critical for long-term success in diabetes management. The most effective program is the one that works for you, so take the time to understand what your body needs for optimal health.