Movement to Monitor and Manage

Woman in a pink shirt stretching during her workout

Regular physical activity is important for overall health and wellness. However, for those with conditions like diabetes, physical activity is more than just the motivation to throw on some sneakers and hit the pavement. Managing your blood glucose levels, eating the right foods and participating in the right type of physical exercise, at the right time, all play a key role in combining diabetes management and fitness.

Being active has many health benefits:

  • Lowers blood glucose levels
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Improves blood flow
  • Burns extra calories so you can keep your weight down if needed
  • Improves your mood
  • Can prevent falls and improve memory in older adults
  • May help you sleep better

Type 2 Diabetes

As the most common form of diabetes, type 2 diabetes may be controlled with a combination of diet, exercise and the care of a physician. Studies show that those who participate in regular physical activity improve blood glucose levels and may prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. The right amount of physical activity may also show improvements in lipids and blood pressure, while decreasing the risk of cardiovascular events. Physical activity improvements for those with type 2 diabetes may be accomplished with a combination of aerobic and resistance training.

Type 1 Diabetes

On the other hand, physical activity for those with type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, is a balancing act. According to the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, the impact of exercise on glucose homeostasis is influenced by the type, intensity and duration of the activity. While physical activity for those with type 1 diabetes has similar benefits to those with type 2, such as cardiovascular health, better bone health and psychological well-being, the intensity and duration can affect blood glucose levels. Aerobic, meaning "with oxygen," exercise tends to lower blood glucose throughout the duration of the exercise while anaerobic, meaning "without oxygen," exercise can raise blood glucose during exercise and result in lower blood glucose later as the body restores muscle glycogen.

Getting Started

If you haven’t begun physical activity, you should start slowly and gradually build up duration and intensity.

Here are a few light activities to help get you started:

  • Walk around while you’re on the phone.
  • Park a little further away from the entrance to your office or grocery story.
  • Take the stairs part of the way up instead of the elevator.
  • Make it a family affair to walk the dog or take a bike ride.

Other light activities you can do while at work or watching TV are:

  • Overhead arm stretches
  • Side lunges
  • Leg lifts
  • Walking in place

You should always talk with your doctor before starting any new exercise or workout routine, especially if you have any other health conditions. Working with your doctor and monitoring your blood glucose will help you determine the best time of day for physical activity, what your target blood glucose level should be and how you can safely stay active.

Learn about diabetes services or to register for a class or lecture near you.