Being physically active

Being physically active1

Being physically active is an important part of your diabetes management plan. This includes all movement that increases energy use, increases heart rate and breathing above resting levels. A reasonable time for an activity can be at least 10 minutes, with a goal for about 30 minutes or more/day, most days of the week. This can include walking, cleaning the house, dancing or exercising in a structured way. Physical activity can help improve blood glucose control, manage weight, reduce risks for heart disease and improve overall well-being.

Precautions: taking care with physical activity:

  • If you have been inactive for a while, talk to your doctor before you engage in an exercise program.
  • Start slowly and increase how long and how much you exercise as tolerated.
  • Check blood glucose before exercise – you may need to have some carbs before you start, especially if you take insulin and your blood glucose level is less than 100mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L).
  • Have glucose tablets or other fast acting carbs (sugar sweetened beverage, fat free milk, candy) handy in case your blood glucose drops during exercise.
  • Wear proper footwear: sneakers or comfortable shoes.
  • Warm up & cool down.
  • Check feet for sores or blisters before and after exercise, and restrict exercise as needed.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise

Overcoming barriers

Here are tips that can help you deal with some of the barriers that may prevent you from being more physically active:

  • Set achievable goals. Don’t compare yourself to others.
  • Be open to trying different activities. challenge yourself as you improve
  • Seek professional help if you have special health conditions or physical challenges.
  • Set a specific time to exercise and make it part of your daily routine.
  • Find a partner to exercise with to help motivate you.
  • Find close and easy access to exercise and resources for exercise.
  • If you can’t afford a gym, consider low-cost home equipment such as stretch cords, a floor mat, a few weights, exercise videos, or using your own body weight for resistance.
  • Be mindful of long periods of inactivity during your day: interrupt long periods of sitting by standing and/or taking a few steps every 30 minutes, if possible.
  • Challenge yourself as you improve.


1 American Diabetes Association. (ADA) Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes–2018. Diabetes Care 2018; 41, Suppl. 1. Online version accessed May 6, 2018