Yes, not only can you be physically active with diabetes, but it is recommended. Physical activity alone, even without weight loss, can improve your diabetes by reducing blood glucose levels and HgA1c. Physical activity also improves the body’s response to insulin and decreases the risk for cardiovascular disease.
Including a regimen of both aerobic and resistance exercises can improve blood glucose levels in people living with diabetes. Aerobic physical activity includes walking, bicycling and dancing, while resistance exercise, such as use of resistance bands and free weights, increase strength and muscle mass. The current recommendation is that all people aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, as well as participate in resistance and strength training exercises at least twice per week.
Don’t forget that dancing, gardening, and cleaning count as physical activity too. Also, you don’t have to get all of your activity in at one time. Try breaking it up into 10 minute increments several times per day. Start slowly and build gradually, then mix it up. Try different activities to get you going and keep you motivated.
Some examples of moderate physical activity that will help fulfill the recommended 150 minutes each week include walking (including at the grocery store and mall), taking an aerobics class, cycling, swimming, mowing the lawn and mopping or scrubbing the floor.
Before beginning a program of physical activity of more than just brisk walking, you should consult with your doctor. If you are taking insulin, keep a close eye on your carbohydrate intake and how you feel after exercise. Avoid becoming at risk for hypoglycemia by adjusting your medication properly.
Reviewed by Sharon Denny, MS, RDN