Exercise For Diabetics.

When I hear the word exercise the word 'groan' usually pops into my mind.

They sort of go together like 'bacon and egg' or 'gin and tonic' don't they?

If you are an exercise enthusiast then the 'groan' is the sound you make when you are really pushing it and if, like so many of us, you are a couch potato, groan is what you say at the very thought of having to start exercising.

Unfortunately exercise is a must for any diabetic. It lowers the blood sugar and improves the ability of the body to use glucose. Next to diet it is the most important thing you can do to help yourself fight this disease, so all together now ...... "GROAN" ......., then accept the inevitable and get on with it!!!

Before I go into the 'which's and whyfor's' of exercise I want to first explain what happens within our body when we exercise.

Muscles all need fuel, but where do they get it from? Resting muscles happily use fatty acids to provide most of their needs. However, when you start exercising those muscles they need more fuel and so start to use glucose.

The more you exercise them the more glucose they need. The first place they get this from is the glycogen stored in the muscles themselves but this soon runs out and they then start to use glucose from the bloodstream.

If that runs out there is always the liver to rely on. It has stores of glycogen that it can break down into glucose and send to the bloodstream or it can break down proteins and fats to make more glucose to do the same with. If the liver was not available to supply the extra glucose like this hypoglycaemia would occur in even normal people after about half an hour of exercise.

Now in a non-diabetic person this whole process works well and the body's functioning systems keep everything stable. When the muscles first pull the glucose out of the blood and the blood glucose levels drop it works as a signal to the beta cells to stop producing so much insulin.

The amount of insulin in the blood then decreases and these low levels let the liver know it is time to start opening up it's stores and releasing their glucose. Once that source of glucose is depleted the body starts burning it's fat stores to produce glucose. This system keeps the blood glucose levels stable over the whole exercise period.

As you will be well aware of we diabetics do not have this smooth working system so things can get a bit more complicated. This does not mean we cannot exercise though! Needless to say you need to be intelligent about which exercise you do.

Take the following factors into consideration:-

If you have neuropathy

things like jogging or high impact aerobics are obviously unsuitable. Repetitive exercise on insensitive feet may cause ulceration and fractures. Before starting you will need to check your feet for cuts or blisters. After exercising, check your feet again.

If you are arthritic avoid exercises that stress your joints - go for something like water workouts.

If you have retinopathy then avoid:-

1. Gym work with heavy weights. Strenuous activity may cause vitreous haemorrhage or retinal detachment.
2. Any exercise that raises blood pressure.
3. Trampolines or anything that includes jarring motions.
4. Activities that change the pressure in your eye eg. scuba diving or mountain climbing.
5. Anything that puts your eyes lower than the level of your heart - touching your toes.

Heart disease

can make some forms of exercise unsuitable. You will need to consult with your cardiologist.

For those patients with Nephropathy

low- to moderate-intensity activities are okay but high-intensity or strenuous physical activity that raise your blood pressure for prolonged periods should only be done if blood pressure is carefully monitored during exercise.

If you have high blood pressure

then avoid exercises that strain the upper body, such as weight lifting. These will raise blood pressure even further.


Care.DiabeticJournals.org has quite a complex article on Physical Activity/Exercise and Diabetes that is worth reading.

Types of exercise.

There are basically two types of exercise though if one terms stretching as a 'type' one could say there were three. All are of use in diabetes control and a combination of them is probably the best way to go.

Aerobic exercise.

If you are exercising with a view to general fitness then this is where you should start. Nearly everyone can do some kind of aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise can be done at various intensity levels so no matter what physical condition you are in or what injury or illness you may have there is an aerobic exercise for you.

This is the type of activity where you exercise without getting out of breath. You perform continuous and rhythmic movements of the large muscles in the arms, legs & hips which gets your heart pumping and your lungs working but you are still able to breath in as much oxygen as your body needs.

Aerobic exercise is often lauded as the one that "burns fat". This is because after about 20 minutes of aerobic exercise the body begins to use it's stored fat as fuel. If you do it regularly your body's metabolism speeds up and you are able to use more calories, even when at rest.

Types of aerobic exercise are:-

1. Walking.
2. Running.
3. Cycling.
4. Swimming.
5. Cross country skiing.
6. Stair climbing.
7. Skipping.
8. Dancing.
9. Rowing.
10. Roller skating.
11. Basketball.
12. Water aerobics.

According to recent research just 10 minutes of aerobic exercise 3 times a day 5 days a week will help your fitness levels tremendously. There is also the concept that one does not need to kill oneself exercising, especially if you are just starting on a fitness program. It is the duration of the exercise rather than the intensity that matters.

In the initial stages you should be able to hold a conversation with someone while you are exercising. This is low intensity training.

Once you are comfortable with that level you can step it up one, to moderate intensity, where you are breathing harder and conversation is a little more difficult but your breathing soon returns to normal once you stop.

The next level will have you breathing hard and deep but you will not be totally out of breathe. You will not be talking much!

These 3 levels are usually enough for anyone not trying to train for a sporting event! If you are comfortable with any level, feel you should be doing more but are not yet ready to step it up a level, just increase the duration, eg. Walk for 60 minutes instead of 30.

Advantages of aerobic exercise are:-

1. Cardiovascular benefits - the heart and lungs work more and thus are in better condition.
2. Help control and reduce body fat.
3. Increased stamina and energy.
4. Relieves stress
5. Helps you sleep
6. Psychological benefits like a better self image, better moods, less depression and anxiety.
7. Increase good (HDL) cholesterol.

Anaerobic exercise.

Simply put this is exercising to a point where you are out of breath. Your heart and lungs cannot keep up with the demand for oxygen your muscles are placing on them i.e. your body needs more oxygen than you are able to supply.

Generally it consists of short bursts of energy, working one part of the body at a time, followed by rest periods. You will get tired fast but you will also use up blood sugar. This is also known as resistance exercise as one performs movements against resistance. It's primary target is to increase muscle mass.

Anaerobic exercise is not fat burning like aerobic exercise, but because it creates more muscle mass it also assists you to use more calories. This increased muscle mass leads to a lessening in Insulin Resistance.

Anaerobic exercises include the use of:-

1. Weights eg. barbells & dumbbells.
2. Exercise bands.
3. Weight machines.
4. Your own body. This is known as Isometrics (in which one part of the body is used to resist the movement of another part) - push ups, crunches etc Sprinting, either in running, cycling or swimming and simply climbing up a steep hill are also forms of anaerobic exercise - if it leaves you puffed it's anaerobic!


1. Makes our bones and muscles stronger.
2. Lower overall blood sugar readings - muscles take glucose out of the blood therefore the more muscle you have the better your BG levels.
3. Lower blood pressure.
4. Helps strengthen joints and muscles so reducing pain.
5. Increases muscle mass over fat so person loses inches.
6. Increases insulin sensitivity.
7. Raises 'good' cholesterol levels and lowers 'bad' ones.


This should always be done before and after exercise as a form of warm up or cool down. It involves holding positions that lengthen the muscles.

For a simple guide on how to stretch prior to or after exercise see Netfit.co.uk.

If you want a really in depth guide to stretching see Bath.ac.uk

Stretching has many benefits eg :-

1. Improved flexibility.
2. Improved circulation.
3. Improved posture.
4. Improved balance and co-ordination.
5. Helps one relax.
6. Can reduce lower back pain.

Please click the links below for specific information relating to :-
Exercise For Type One Diabetics.
Exercise For Type Two Diabetics.
Exercise And Treadmills.


When I found the information below,

I thought "I just have to pass this on" and as it was new to the site I placed it on the New Stuff page.

But then I thought "What about the folk who don't go to that page. They may come to my site because they want to know about a specific topic and that meant they would lose out on some great information.

So I decided to repeat the information on all the pages where I felt it had relevance. If you have read it before you could skip over it now but if you have not acted upon it maybe a reread will convince you that it is worth doing.

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