Types of exercise
The Canadian recommendations for exercise for people with diabetes include both aerobic (physical activity that increases the heart rate and the body’s use of oxygen) and resistance exercises (e.g. lifting weights). The important thing is to choose a type of exercise that you will enjoy!
Aerobic exercise has many health benefits such as improving heart health, helping control blood sugar, and assisting in weight management. Examples include running, swimming, and biking.
Resistance exercise (also known as strength training) helps build muscle and bone, and also plays a role in controlling blood sugar. Resistance exercises may include the use of external resistance force, or the body’s own weight can be used.
Flexibility and balance are important as we age, due to loss of muscle strength and joint flexibility. Incorporating balance and stretching exercises into your physical activity routine can provide many benefits including decreased risk of falls, improved posture and increased overall mobility.
Mixed exercise, which includes combining aerobic and anaerobic workouts (e.g. circuit training), can significantly improve cardiovascular fitness, strength, speed and overall health. It also helps to maintain muscle, and improve bone density, flexibility, balance and agility.
Types of diabetes and life stages
Regardless of the type of diabetes you have and regardless of your age, regular physical activity is important for your overall health and wellness. Physical activity recommendations may vary by diabetes as well as your age.
If you have type 1 diabetes, it is extremely important to know your blood sugar levels, before, during and after exercise and to make adjustments accordingly
For people with type 2 diabetes, physical activity helps to decrease insulin resistance, and contributes to improved blood sugar control. There are also so many other additional benefits beyond management of your blood glucose.
If you have prediabetes, one way to help reduce the chance of developing type 2 diabetes is to exercise regularly, along with healthy eating and weight loss.
Children with or without diabetes benefit from exercise. It is recommended that children and youth build up to 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day. Reducing sedentary behaviour is also an important goal.
If you are a senior living with diabetes and you haven’t exercised much in the past, it is never too late to start!
If you have pre-existing diabetes and become pregnant or have gestational diabetes, exercise can help control your blood glucose levels. Your healthcare team can help you develop an exercise plan that is appropriate for you and your baby.
If you are new to exercise, you likely have a lot of questions about where to start. This may include questions about how much is required, the best timing, true benefits, adjusting medications, and general planning.
Amount of exercise
How much exercise is needed? Find out what the current recommendations are for physical activity.
Timing of exercise
When is the best time to exercise? The real answer is any time! Get ideas for how to incorporate exercise into your working day, whether working from home or away.
Benefits of exercise
Beyond the health benefits of helping to control blood glucose or improving heart health, there are several other key advantages to maintaining a regular exercise routine.
Exercise and medication adjustments
Since low blood sugar can occur during or after exercise, you may need to adjust your insulin dose based on your activity. Be sure to discuss your exercise plans with your diabetes healthcare team.
Managing diabetes with changing seasons
Extreme weather conditions can have negative effects on the human body. Get heat safety and cold weather exercise tips.
Making an exercise plan
Whether you are just starting out or simply need some inspiring ways to keep motivated, there are several ways you can help ensure that you stay on track with a regular exercise routine.
Physical activity and co-existing health conditions
Getting enough exercise while living with diabetes can be a challenge in and of itself, but some people have other health conditions or physical limitations that make exercising that much more difficult. With any type of physical disability, you will need to alter the activity plan according to your capabilities.
A common complication of diabetes is nerve damage (diabetic peripheral neuropathy or DPN) which can lead to pain, numbness and tingling in the extremities. This can be challenging in terms of incorporating exercise, especially since it is important to avoid the development of foot ulcers.
According to the Hypertension Canada guidelines, people who have diabetes and high blood pressure should exercise for 30 to 60 minutes between four and seven days per week. The types of activities that are best for diabetes and high blood pressure are moderate-intensity aerobic exercises and resistance exercises.