November Blog – Diabetes and Exercise

Diabetes and Exercise


Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disease characterized by an absolute or relative deficiency of insulin that results in hyperglycemia. Individuals with Type 1 diabetes have an absolute deficiency of insulin caused by a marked reduction in insulin-secreting beta cells of the pancreas. Therefore, exogenous insulin must be supplied by injection or insulin pump. Individuals with Type 2 diabetes are considered to have a relative insulin deficiency, as they can have either elevated, reduced, or normal insulin levels. However, these individuals present with hyperglycemia regardless of their insulin status.


Participating in regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do to help manage and live well with your diabetes. For people with Type 2 diabetes, exercise not only provides special advantages, it also has the ability to prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes from occurring. Regular exercise can improve your body’s sensitivity to insulin and assist in managing your blood sugar levels. During physical activity, your active muscles use glucose as a source of energy, so participating in regular bouts of exercise will assist in preventing glucose from building up in the blood.


Physical activity can be categorized by any type of movements that cause your body to burn calories. It can include some everyday activities such as: walking, gardening, cleaning, and many other common activities. Aerobic exercise would be considered continuous exercise such as walking, biking or jogging which will elevate your breathing and increase heart rate, whereas resistance exercises involve brief repetitive exercises with either weights, weight machines, resistance bands, or body weight which can be used to build up muscular strength. When beginning a weight training program it is important to start slowly and be sure to gain proper instruction in order to avoid potential injuries.


If you have been inactive for some time, it is important to talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise program that is more strenuous than your everyday activities. Another consideration when starting an exercise program, is if you take insulin or medications that increase insulin levels, it is important to monitor your blood before and after exercising.




Durstine, J. L., Moore, G. E., Painter, P. L., & Roberts, S. O. (2009). ACSM’s Exercise Management for Persons With Chronic Diseases and Disabilities. Champaign, Illinois. Human Kinetics.

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