Exercise and Diabetes

Your guide to staying fit and well

Exercise and Diabetes
Exercise and Diabetes

Why is exercise so important for diabetics?

Exercising regularly improves sensitivity to the body’s own insulin and the body becomes better at transporting glucose. This happens because exercise stimulates the body’s muscles.

It reduces the level of fat in the body and can improve blood glucose control. Less glucose in the blood, because it’s now stored in the body’s muscle, means the blood flows better and some of the blood vessel complications associated with diabetes, may be avoided.

Try to find something you enjoy as you’re more likely to stick with it. You could start with a short daily walk and gradually increase the distance or jog some of the way. Or maybe get off the bus a couple of stops earlier and walk the rest of the way at a brisk pace. Consider joining a gym, seek out your local swimming pool, or check out local sports teams. Exercising with friends old or new make it sociable and more fun, while you can also support and motivate each other. It’s important to check that your condition allows you to exercise, so see your GP beforehand.

An alternative approach to aerobic exercise is HIIT - low-volume high intensity interval training, which involves short bursts of intense activity interspersed with longer periods of recovery at low to moderate intensity. For HIIT it’s best to be clinically stable, and have been participating in regular moderate-intensity exercise.

If HIIT isn’t for you, why not try flexibility and balance training like yoga and tai chi 2–3 times per week? This can increase flexibility, muscular strength, and balance.

Whatever you decide to do, it’s important to increase your total daily physical activity which can include housework, walking the dog, and gardening. This kind of unstructured activity reduces total daily sitting time and helps you exercise, if you are unable to take part in more structured exercise.


Activity may affect your blood sugar levels both during and after exercise. Regular checking will help you to understand how it affects your blood sugar levels, so test your levels before, during and after any physical activity. It’s best to talk to your GP before you take up a regular exercise programme.

To avoid hypos, if your blood sugar levels are below 7mmol/l before you exercise, it’s best to have some extra carbohydrate. If you are with friends, make sure they know how to recognise and treat a hypo, and if you are exercising alone, let someone know where you are. If you’re trying to lose weight, talk to your GP about what’s the best way for you.

Be careful when your blood sugar levels are above 13mmol/l as activity can raise it higher. If this happens, it’s probably because you don’t have enough insulin. Talk to your GP about what you can do.


In order to maintain your blood sugar levels, it’s best to plan what to eat before, during and after. You also need to listen to your body as everyone is different but what works for some, may not work for you.

Try these apps to keep you motivated:

  • MyFitness Pal
  • Run Keeper
  • FitBit
  • Couch to 5K

Ask for expert advice

Come in to your local LloydsPharmacy at any time and our expert healthcare team can advise you on managing your diabetes, following a healthier lifestyle and recommend what’s best for you from our product range.


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