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Exercise Adjustments for Individuals with Diabetes

by IBD Medical on January 12, 2024


Exercise is an important aspect of diabetes management, but it does require some special considerations. Here are some adjustments that someone with diabetes may need to make regarding exercise and physical activity:

Blood Sugar Monitoring

Adjustment: Individuals with diabetes should check their blood sugar levels before, during, and after exercise. This helps to understand how different types of exercise affect their blood sugar levels and allows for any necessary adjustments.

Timing of Exercise

Adjustment: The timing of exercise in relation to meals and medications can impact blood sugar levels. Individuals with diabetes may need to adjust the timing of their exercise sessions based on their individual response to activity.

Type of Exercise

Adjustment: Different types of exercise can have varying effects on blood sugar levels. Aerobic exercises, such as walking or swimming, may lower blood sugar levels, while anaerobic exercises, such as weightlifting, can sometimes raise blood sugar levels. Individuals with diabetes may need to experiment with different types of exercise to find what works best for them.

Intensity of Exercise

Adjustment: The intensity of exercise can also affect blood sugar levels. Individuals with diabetes may need to start with lower intensity exercises and gradually increase the intensity as they become more comfortable and familiar with how their body responds.


Adjustment: Staying hydrated is important during exercise, especially for individuals with diabetes. Drinking water before, during, and after exercise can help prevent dehydration and maintain stable blood sugar levels.

Carbohydrate Management

Adjustment: Individuals with diabetes may need to adjust their carbohydrate intake around exercise sessions to prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). This could involve having a snack before exercise, adjusting insulin doses, or consuming carbohydrates during longer exercise sessions.

Foot Care

Adjustment: Individuals with diabetes need to take special care of their feet, as they are at increased risk of foot problems. This includes wearing appropriate footwear, checking feet for blisters or sores after exercise, and keeping feet clean and dry.

Emergency Preparedness

Adjustment: It's important for individuals with diabetes to be prepared for potential emergencies during exercise, such as hypoglycaemia. Carrying fast-acting carbohydrates (e.g., glucose tablets, fruit juice) and having emergency contact information readily available can help ensure safety during exercise.

Blood Sugar Goals: Before exercise:

  • Anaerobic >100 mg/dL
  • Aerobic >120 mg/dL

During exercise:

  • Anaerobic and Aerobic 100-180 mg/dL

After exercise:

  • Anaerobic < 180 mg/dL
  • Aerobic >100 mg/dL

Insulin and Exercising:

  • If insulin-on-board (bolused insulin in the last 4 hours) is present, insulin will work 25-75% greater, increasing the risk of hypoglycemia.
  • Consider reducing basal insulin (MDI: 24 hours in advance, Pump: 30-90 minutes in advance - set temp basal rate).
  • Consider reducing bolus insulin if eating < 4 hours before the workout.
  • Consult healthcare professionals for an individualised exercise plan.

In conclusion, exercise is a beneficial aspect of diabetes management, but it does require some adjustments and considerations. By monitoring blood sugar levels, adjusting the timing, type, and intensity of exercise, staying hydrated, managing carbohydrates, taking care of feet, and being prepared for emergencies, individuals with diabetes can safely incorporate exercise into their routine and enjoy the many health benefits it offers.

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