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Diabetes? Exercise Can Help You

If you are one of the almost 30 million Americans1 with diabetes, you can get immediate and long-term benefits from regular exercise. For example, exercise can help your body use insulin more effectively, better balance the amount of sugar in your blood (blood glucose), and more effectively use the carbohydrates you eat to fuel your muscles — processes that have positive effects on your overall health. When combined with strength training, aerobic exercises such as walking, jogging, swimming, and cycling also can help you maintain a healthy weight, which can help maintain healthy blood sugar levels.2

if you have diabetes,
see your summit medical group doctor
Before Starting an exercise routine. 

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) GUIDELINES

ADA guidelines emphasize the importance of regular physical activity as a way to prevent and better manage diabetes, including engaging in:3

  • Moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise at least 150 minutes per week
  • Moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise at least 3 days per week
  • Strength training3

In addition, the ADA emphasizes that people with diabetes have no more than 2 rest days between aerobic activity. 



If you have diabetes and other health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), kidney disease (nephropathy), autonomic or peripheral neuropathy, eye disease (retinopathy), circulation problems (peripheral vascular disease), bone loss (osteoporosis), or arthritis, it's important to talk with your doctor before starting a new or intensifying your current exercise program. Your doctor might recommend that you have a stress test to ensure that you can exercise safely. She or he also can recommend types of exercise that are safe for you.

If you have heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease (nephropathy), or eye problems (retinopathy):

  • Avoid strenuous activities, including heavy lifting, isometric exercises, * and exposure to extremely hot or cold weather
  • Talk with your doctor first to find out if you can engage in strength training

    Many people with heart disease and high blood pressure can engage in light weight training. Ask if your gym employs a personal trainer with expertise in diabetes who can develop a safe and effective resistance and an aerobic exercise program. If you have heart disease and/or high blood pressure, you might be able to safely engage in regular, moderate stretching, walking, cycling, swimming, and light, and dynamic lifting with many repetitions. If you have eye problems such as retinopathy, you should avoid exercises that involve bending over and placing your head lower than your heart, which puts pressure on your eyes

If you have peripheral neuropathy or peripheral vascular disease:

  • Avoid strenuous, high-impact, weight-bearing, endurance exercise such as long-distance walking, running, jumping or hopping,
    and exposure to excessively hot or cold weather

    It's especially important to avoid exercise that worsen sores and ulcers. In many cases, people with peripheral neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease can engage in light-to-moderate low-impact exercise such as stretching, cycling, walking, swimming, and chair exercises. If you have peripheral neuropathy and exercise regularly, be sure to wear shoes that fit properly and check your legs and feet every day for sores and ulcers 

If you have autonomic neuropathy:

  • Avoid exercises that require you to move quickly or cause dehydration

    In many cases, people with autonomic neuropathy can engage in light-to-moderate aerobic exercise and resistance training for short periods of time. As you get fit and with your doctor's approval, you may be able to increase the length of time you exercise 

If you have osteoporosis or arthritis:

  • Avoid high-impact exercises that put excess pressure on your bones and joints

    Many people with osteoporosis and/or arthritis can engage in moderate exercise such as walking, swimming, cycling, pool-based aerobic exercise, yoga, tai chi, light resistance training, and stretching

In addition to better managing diabetes,
regular exercise can help YOU
build strong bones and muscles,
lower blood pressure,
increase good (high-density lipoprotein/HDL) cholesterol,
reduce stress, improve sleep, increase energy,
and elevate your mood!3

In addition to regular exercise and increasing your overall level of activity, it’s important to eat a diet that can help you maintain blood sugar with or without medication depending on your needs. The good news is that exercise can help you avoid or lessen the impact of long-term complications from diabetes, including heart disease, circulatory problems, and other health issues.3 

with SUMmit medical group endocrinology today.

*Isometric exercise includes any muscle-building exercise that uses body weight against resistance such as pressing against a wall, door, free weight(s), or weight machine to strengthen and tone muscles. Squats, plank bridges, and pushups are isometric exercises. Isometric exercises raise blood pressure and put pressure on your heart and cardiovascular system and eyes. For these reasons, isometric exercises are usually not recommended for people with heart disease, high blood pressure, vascular disease, and certain eye diseases such as retinopathy and glaucoma.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet. Accessed October 27, 2018.
  2. American College of Sports Medicine. Exercise and Type 2 Diabetes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. Exercise and type 2 diabetes: American College of Sports Medicine and American Diabetes Association Joint Position Statement. 2010. 42;12:2282-2303.
  3. American Diabetes Association. Exercise can help tame type 2 diabetes, say new guidelines. ACSM, American Diabetes Association guidelines make strong case for physical activity. Accessed October 27, 2018.