Physical activity | Diabetes Hub

Check out these recommendations on how to safely incorporate physical activities into your weekly regimen.

Be Healthy

Physical activity


Exercise is important for your general health and well-being. If you have diabetes, you can still exercise if you take some precautions, depending on your:

  • Type of diabetes
  • Pre-exercise blood sugar level
  • Medication and timing
  • Recent food intake
  • General health condition


Aim to exercise 3 to 7 days per week. Aerobic and stretching exercises can be done every day, with strength training on alternate days.
Aim for moderate intensity, i.e., talk but can’t sing while exercising.
Aim for 150 - 300 minutes of exercise per week, with at least 2 days per week of muscle strengthening. Do more to lose weight.
Include a combination of aerobic, resistance and flexibility (stretches) exercises. Progress to include other types of exercises such as balance, agility and even power training.

Regular physical activity benefits you in many ways

Improves productivity
Boosts attention, memory and creativity
Improves overall mood
Reduces stress and improves mental health
Increases health benefits
Reduces risk of colon cancer, heart diseases, diabetes and high blood pressure
Increase fitness levels
Improves strength and stamina

Taking small steps towards an active lifestyle

Make it a habit to do a few of these activities throughout your day.

Take the stairs instead of the lift
Brisk walk for 10 minutes
Walk around every hour
Take 10,000 steps daily
Get off 1 bus stop earlier and walk
Exercise with family and friends

How to exercise safely

Start slow if you have not been physically active
Wear comfortable clothing and appropriate footwear
(well-fitted shoes with adequate support)
Check your feet for wounds before and after exercising
Exercise at a cooler time
(mornings or evenings, or in a cooler environment)
Bring along healthy snacks or sugar-containing sweets, in case of hypoglycaemia
(low blood sugar)
Keep hydrated
Exercise with family and friends

Progression of aerobic exercise

Once you’re ready, you can add more structure into your routine. You can progress to higher intensities of exercise based on your individual exercise tolerance.

There are 3 methods for challenging your aerobic fitness:

  • Increase your speed e.g., Walking on a treadmill at 3.5km/h → 3.8km/h → 4.2km/h
  • Increase your resistance e.g., Lifting hand-weights of 0.5kg → 1kg → 1.5kg
  • Increase your duration e.g., Going for a walk for 20 min → 30 min → 40 min

Managing pain

Post-exercise muscle soreness

Normal and expected discomfort occurs between 24 and 48 hours after activity (especially if you are new to the activity).

Such discomfort usually resolves on its own.

If it is (1) excessive in intensity or (2) persists longer than 2-3 days, consider reducing the duration or intensity of your exercise.

Claudication pain* for those with peripheral vascular disease

Only exercise to the point of moderate pain (i.e., 3 out of 4 on the claudication pain scale).

Sit and rest intermittently when moderate pain is reached, and resume only when pain is COMPLETELY alleviated.

0 = no pain
Resting or early exercise effort
1 = very mild pain
(onset of claudication)
1st feeling of any pain in legs
2 = mild pain
Pain which the patient’s attention can be diverted
3 = moderate pain
Intense pain from which patient’s attention cannot be diverted
(Most exercise programmes may recommend cessation of exercise at this point)
4 = severe pain
Excruciating and unbearable pain
* Pain in your thigh, calf or buttocks when you walk, which can make you limp.

Injury management (for minor sprains and strains)

  • Rest for 48-72 hours, and avoid excessive movement to the injured area.
  • Apply ice to the affected area for 10-15 mins. Take precautions: (1) use a towel – do not apply directly against your skin; (2) do not apply onto open wounds; (3) check your skin’s integrity and condition after applying ice.
  • If possible, keep the injured area elevated to reduce swelling.
  • Seek medical attention if the injury does not improve.
Stop when you experience these symptoms

When exercising, please rest or stop if you experience the following symptoms of hypoglycaemia (i.e., when your blood sugar level is less than 4 mmol/L)​.

  • Hunger
  • Hand tremors
  • Abnormally fast heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Mood changes (e.g., anxiety, irritability and nervousness)
  • Dizziness or headaches
  • Pain (especially in the chest or abdomen)

Delay or postpone exercise if you are feeling unwell. Always listen to your body.



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