Regular physical activity is an important part of your diabetes care along with proper meal planning, taking medications as prescribed and managing stress.

When you are active, your cells become more sensitive to insulin and are better able to take up glucose from your blood for energy. The contraction of your muscles also triggers your cells to take up glucose without the need for insulin.

This is why regular physical activity can lower blood glucose and improve your HbA1C. When your HbA1C becomes lower, you may be able to take fewer diabetes pills or reduce the amount of insulin you need.

What Else Can Physical Activity Do for Me?

what else can physical activity do for me

Leading a physically active lifestyle has many benefits for you, it:

  • lowers your blood pressure and cholesterol
  • lowers your risk for heart disease and stroke
  • controls your weight
  • helps you sleep better
  • gives you more energy
  • improves your mood
  • strengthens your bones and muscles
  • keeps your body flexible
  • improves your balance

The good news is, you don’t have to exercise long and hard to enjoy these benefits.

How to Get Started?

how to get started with exercise

Consult Your Doctor

  • Ask your doctor for advice before increasing your physical activities.
  • Your doctor will check that you do not have any health conditions that may be worsened by physical activity.

For example, if you have diabetic retinopathy (a type of diabetic eye disease), avoid weight lifting and high impact activities (e.g. aerobics, football) that may cause bleeding inside your eyeball and make your eye problem worse.

Choose Activities That Fit Your Lifestyle
  • When planning a routine for regular physical activity, take some time to learn more about the variety of physical activities that you can engage in:  
    • Routine activity (e.g. walking up the stairs, mopping floor)

    • Aerobic activity (e.g. brisk walking, cycling, swimming, dancing)

    • Muscle strengthening activity (e.g. lifting weights, using resistance bands, doing push-ups)
  • Ask your diabetes health team to help you work out a routine of different activities that are safe and enjoyable for you.

Set Realistic Goals

  • Reaching your goals is all about steady step-by-step progress. Write down your exercise goals using a notebook, calendar or use an online activity tracker.

Exercise Safely. Here’s a Workout You Can Try:

First 5 to 10 minutes

Warm up with an aerobic activity at low intensity level (e.g. walking)

At least 10 minutes

Engage in moderate to vigorous[1] intensity aerobic exercise of at least 10 minutes per day, with a total of 150 minutes per week. Spread your activity over the week and try not to go more than two days in a row without exercising.

If you’ve not been exercising for a while, start with ten-minute bouts and slowly build up from there.

For example, take a brisk ten minute walk after your lunch. Or try doing 15 minutes of aerobics in the morning before work and another 15 minutes when you get home.

In addition to aerobics, do some type of strength training activity at least twice a week. The more muscles you have, the more calories you burn even when you are at rest.

Final 5 to 10 minutes

Cool down to bring your heart rate back to the pre-exercise level.

Be Prepared for Low Blood Glucose

  • Physical activity can continue to lower your blood glucose up to 24 hours or more after your workout. This is why you should be prepared for low blood glucose.


    • Know how your body adjusts to different physical activities. Check your blood glucose before and after exercise.
    • Watch out for symptoms of low blood glucose. It can happen during or long after your exercise.
    • Treat it immediately.
    • Take a break and make sure your blood glucose level returns to normal before resuming your activity.
    • If low blood glucose happens often during your exercise routine, talk to your doctor about adjusting your treatment plan.

Get Support

  • Join a group of like-minded people who are also trying to be active. Or find a walking buddy and exercise together to reach your goals.

Stick to Your Meal Plan

my healthy plate

  • If you are trying to lose weight, stick to your usual meal plan. Use My Healthy Plate to help you eat healthy foods in the right amounts.

Decide to be more active today. All you need is a pair of running shoes. Start with small and achievable goals, such as taking a ten-minute walk each day, and gradually build up from there.

Download the HealthHub app on Google Play or Apple Store to access more health and wellness advice at your fingertips.

Read these next:


  1. You are exercising at moderate intensity if you can still talk but not sing during the activity. You are exercising at high intensity if you cannot say more than a few words without stopping for breath during the activity.
  2. American Diabetes Association, et al. (2003, Dec 23). Physical Activity/Exercise and Diabetes. Diabetes Care, 27(1), p. 58-62.
    Retrieved Oct 2016 from
  3. American Diabetes Association (2015, May 19). What We Recommend.
    Retrieved Oct 2016 from