Get Moving To Manage Your Diabetes

Smiling senior man swimmer wearing goggles

Find an activity you enjoy—you’ll be more likely to keep doing it, and you’ll have more fun!

If you have diabetes, getting regular physical activity is key to helping manage your blood sugar. Read on for tips to help you get moving and keep going.

One of the most important things that you can do for your health is to get regular physical activity. There are so many benefits, from sleeping better to feeling happier. Regular physical activity can also help you:

  • Lose or maintain your weight.
  • Improve your memory.
  • Manage your blood pressure.
  • Lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

Physical activity is a foundation of diabetes management. It helps you manage blood sugar levels and lowers your risk of other complications, including heart disease and nerve damage.

Breaking Down the Barriers

It might sound hard to make a healthy change, but don’t talk yourself out of physical activity before you start. Here are a few tips to help you get moving:

  • You can start slowly. You don’t have to spend hours at the gym. The goal is to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week. One way to reach that goal is to be active for 30 minutes on most days. Depending on your fitness level, you could start with a 10-minute walk after dinner and build up slowly. Be sure to check with your doctor about which activities are best for you and if there are any you should avoid.
  • It can lower your blood sugar. While some benefits of physical activity may take longer to see, some are immediate. Check your blood sugar before and after you take a walk, and you’ll likely see a lower number after.
  • You can do it for free. You don’t need to pay for a gym membership. There are plenty of free options. Walk during lunch, dance to some tunes at home, or find a free online workout—there are so many to choose from!
  • Small changes can make a difference. You don’t need a big chunk of time to be active. You can find small ways to get in more activity throughout the day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Play with your kids outside. Get up and move around during commercials when you watch TV.
You Can Start Slowly!

You don’t have to spend hours at the gym. The goal is to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week. One way to reach that goal is to be active for 30 minutes on most days. Depending on your fitness level, you could start with a 10-minute walk after dinner and build up slowly.

Plan Your Way to an Active Lifestyle

People who are active usually follow a plan or a routine to keep them on track. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

Be specific. Pick a goal that’s clear, one you can reach and easily measure, such as walking a mile every day or being active every weekday for 30 minutes.

Start small. Depending on your fitness level, that may mean taking the stairs more often, doing yard work, or walking the dog. Take it slowly. Every step is one more than you did before—and a step in the right direction.

Find something you like. Seriously, this is important … or you won’t keep doing it. Make physical activity fun, whether it’s yoga, a scenic bike ride, or playing with your kids. A “workout” doesn’t have to feel like work—and certainly doesn’t have to be in a gym.

Partner up. Whether it’s in person or virtually, working out with a friend makes your workout more fun. And you can hold each other accountable if you’re tempted to skip it.

Make it a habit. Schedule physical activity into your daily routine. Walk every day during lunch or walk with your family after dinner. The more regular you are, the quicker it will become a habit. Don’t go more than 2 days in a row without being active, and you’ll keep your new habit going strong.

Measure your progress. Whether you use an app, activity tracker, or a piece of paper, tracking your progress lets you see how much you’ve completed in a week, a month, or a year. Then you can celebrate your successes!

Our bodies are made to move, and we feel better when they do. Just make sure to check with your doctor before starting any new or more difficult activity.

Page last reviewed: January 19, 2021