Diabetes & Exercise

Diabetes / Get Fit

Being physically active is good for diabetes. Whether you feel able to go for a run or a swim, or can manage some arm stretches or on-the-spot walking while the kettle boils, it all makes a difference.

We know that diabetes can affect you in unpredictable ways, making it hard to know how you’ll feel or what type of activity you should do. That’s why it’s important to remember that the small victories count. It doesn’t matter if you try something new or just do that little bit more of something you already do. Each step you take to moving more can help with managing your condition.

Here we’ll take you through the benefits of being active when you have diabetes, and help you better understand your feelings towards moving more. We’ll share different types of activities to try, whether you’re at home, have diabetes complications, or just need some inspiration. And we’ll also look at how being more active can affect your blood glucose (sugar) levels.

Benefits of exercising for diabetes

There are many benefits of being active when you have type 1, type 2 or other types of diabetes. Moving more can:

  • help the body use insulin better by increasing insulin sensitivity
  • help you look after your blood pressure, because high blood pressure means you’re more at risk of diabetes complications
  • help to improve cholesterol (blood fats) to help protect against problems like heart disease
  • help you lose weight if you need to, and keep the weight off after you’ve lost it
  • give you energy and help you sleep
  • help your joints and flexibility
  • help your mind as well as your body - exercise releases endorphins, which you could think of as happy hormones. Being active is proven to reduce stress levels and improve low mood.
  • help people with type 2 diabetes improve their HbA1c. In some cases, this can help people with the condition go into remission.

It’s important to remember that being active is even more beneficial if you’re also making healthier food choices, not smoking and getting enough sleep.

Your feelings about diabetes and exercise

Although there are many benefits to moving more, we know that you may be anxious about how your body will cope and how exercise can affect your diabetes. Some people think that moving more will be too tiring, or make their condition harder to manage, and others are worried about their blood sugar levels.

There may also be days when you don’t feel like doing much, or the weather gets you down and you don't feel motivated to move. These worries and feelings are all understandable, but it’s important to remember that you don’t have to deal with these feelings alone. We’re here to help, and we've got lots of information about emotional support and getting active.

We’ve also put together guidance and advice to help you feel confident managing your blood sugar levels when moving more, and we’ll show you lots of different activities to try - especially for when you’re home, or when you don’t feel like doing much. Plus, we’ll show you where you can get more support with exercising if you need it.

Best type of exercise when you have diabetes

There isn’t one type of activity that’s best for everyone with diabetes - it’s about finding what works for you. This can depend on lots of things, like what you enjoy, where you are and how much time you have. Try to think about how activity can fit in with your life, not the other way around.

In general, it’s best to try and do a mixture of different types of activity. This is because different types of activity have different benefits and use different parts of your body.

For example, swimming can make you breathe harder and raise your heart rate. This is good for your heart health because your heart has to work harder to pump blood around the body. When you have diabetes, keeping your heart healthy is even more important because you’re more at risk of complications, including heart disease.

Gardening, however, can help with strength, and doing something like digging can help the body use insulin better.

Keeping active at home

If you're spending time at home, there are lots of ways to get active and keep moving that much more. How about doing:

  • on-the-spot walking during TV ad breaks
  • stretches for your arms and legs whilst sat in a chair
  • hoovering your home or washing your car
  • using cans of food as weights
  • gardening - if you have a garden. If you don’t, do you have any house plants you can water, prune and re-pot while standing up?

It might help to pop some music on while you’re doing this, especially if you’re not in the mood to move. It can stop you concentrating on the time and help you feel motivated. For more exercising tips, advice and ideas, click this link.

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