Diabetes and Exercise: The benefits you don’t want to miss

Navigating life with diabetes can be complex, but there’s a surprisingly simple and effective tool to enhance your health: exercise. But fear not, it doesn’t have to look like running a half marathon every other day to see improvement to blood sugar control.

What is Diabetes and Exercise?

Diabetes is a non-communicable chronic condition that affects insulin sensitivity and production in the body. (1) Insulin is a hormone that plays a key role in metabolism, allowing the energy we ingest from food to be used as fuel for our organs, muscles and tissues. Ultimately, the energy remains in the bloodstream and is characterised as elevated blood sugar levels. Managing this condition requires a multifaceted approach, with exercise playing a crucial role in maintaining overall health and well-being.

Exercise encompasses any physical activity that engages your muscles and requires energy expenditure. It’s not confined to gym routines or a certain level of high exertion; it includes a variety of movements and activities that integrate seamlessly into your daily life, enhancing your physical fitness and health. (2)

Types of Beneficial Exercises for Diabetes

Our opinion firstly, is that the best exercise for diabetes is the exercise that you will do! So simply anything that gets you moving more than usual.

However, there are some recommendations. For people living with diabetes, a combination of aerobic and strength training exercises is highly beneficial. Aerobic exercises, such as brisk walking, swimming, or cycling, enhance cardiovascular health and improve insulin sensitivity. Strength training, involving weights or bodyweight exercises, aids in building muscle mass and regulating blood sugar levels.

The Australian government recommends that adults engage in at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week, along with muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days per week. (2) Further, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that adults living with diabetes enjoy at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic activity and two to three sessions of resistance exercise per week. (1) This guideline serves as an excellent framework for individuals with diabetes to structure their exercise routines.

How Exercise Impacts Blood Sugar

Engaging in regular physical activity is instrumental in making your body more responsive to insulin and is a cornerstone of blood sugar control. Some key benefits of Exercise for diabetes management are:

  • Improved Insulin Sensitivity: Exercise helps your body use insulin better, reducing the need for medication and also results in significantly lower blood sugar levels for extended periods post-workout. (3)
  • Better Blood Sugar Control: Regular activity can help keep your blood sugar levels or HbA1C in the target range. (4)
  • Weight Management: Exercise, combined with a healthy diet, can help you maintain or reach a healthy weight. (3)
  • Reduced Risk of Complications: Staying active can lower the risk of diabetes-related complications like heart disease and nerve damage. (5)
  • Enhanced Overall Well-being: Regular exercise can improve mood, boost energy levels, and promote better sleep. (2)

Many of these benefits begin to show with a small increase in exercise, so why wait? Get moving today!

How You Can Get Moving More

Incorporating more physical activity into your daily routine doesn’t have to be a chore, it can be really simple and enjoyable. We always encourage you to start with small, manageable steps like using stairs instead of elevators, walking during breaks, or participating in beginner-friendly exercise classes. That way, you’re able to build up your strength and confidence with the moment. The key is to find activities that you enjoy and can sustain over time, turning them into a regular part of your lifestyle.

From there, it might be an idea to find a buddy or a partner to take to the gym or to the pool, so that you have that added level of accountability. But at the end of the day, remember that doing any physical activity is better than doing none.


Exercise is a vital component of effective diabetes management, offering extensive benefits that go beyond mere blood sugar regulation. By integrating regular physical activity into your routine, you can proactively manage your diabetes and significantly enhance your overall health and quality of life.

How we reviewed this article

Miyagi utilises a variety of credible and reliable sources to support and provide valuable insights into the topic being discussed. From academic journals to government reports, each reference has been carefully selected to add depth and richness of our articles.

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