Woman exercising Maintaining an active lifestyle is an important part of managing your diabetes. Physical activity will help lower your blood glucose, improve blood circulation, reduce blood pressure and manage your weight.

Other benefits of physical activity include:

  • Reduced stress
  • Improved sleep
  • Increased energy
  • Improved flexibility
  • Reduced risk of heart disease and stroke

Before beginning a physical activity program, always check with your doctor. If you have any medical conditions that limit your ability to perform physical activity, many exercises can be modified.

Diabetes: Types, Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment Risk Factors and Complications
Blood Glucose Management

The FITT Principle

You can use the FITT principle as a guide to develop a physical activity plan. FITT takes into account several aspects of physical activity that you need to consider when developing a physical activity routine.

  • Frequency: How often you do physical activity
  • Intensity: A measurement of how hard you are working during physical activity. There are three levels of intensity: light, moderate, vigorous.
  • Timing: How long physical activity is performed.
  • Type:
    • Cardiovascular: These activities get your heart rate up. Examples include walking, jogging, biking, swimming, elliptical and treadmill.
    • Resistance: These activities help build muscle. Examples include light weights, resistance bands and weight machines.
    • Flexibility: These exercises improve flexibility and balance. Examples include yoga, t’ai chi and stretching.

The American Diabetes Association recommends at least 150 minutes of physical activity weekly with 2-3 days of resistance exercises.

The goal for most people is 30 or more minutes of aerobic activity at least 5 days a week. (If your physician has recommended that you lose weight, you may need to exercise more than 30 minutes.) You can always split up your activity for the day. For example, take three 10-minute walks instead of 30 minutes all at once.

Getting started with a physical activity routine is often challenging, but simple changes can make a difference. Here are some things you can do to increase your physical activity throughout the day that will help you burn calories, lose weight and lower your blood glucose.

  • Walk instead of drive
  • Take a walk while talking on the phone rather than sitting
  • Take the stairs rather than riding the elevator or escalator
  • During your lunch break, walk around the building
  • Get off the bus a stop early and walk the rest of the way
  • Rake leaves or wash the car
  • Do exercises while watching your favorite television program
  • Plan family activities that include exercise such as bike rides or walks at a local park
  • Park at the far end of the lot and walk
  • Use a buddy system to give you accountability and make physical activity more fun

Do not let barriers – weather, time and scheduling, life events such as family emergencies, or motivation – get in the way of achieving your physical activity goals.

By knowing what your personal barriers are, you can think of ways to overcome them. For example, if you usually walk outside but the weather does not permit you to do so, have a back-up plan that includes an indoor activity.

Weight loss

Your doctor may recommend that you lose weight. Weight loss can improve your blood glucose, blood pressure as well as your cholesterol. Losing just 10-15 pounds can make a big difference for some people.

There are many ways to lose weight. Improving your diet, reducing the number of calories you eat and having an active lifestyle can all lead to weight loss, blood glucose control and even greater health benefits. Talk to your physician and your diabetes team about your specific weight loss goals and how to successfully accomplish them.

Diabetes Management Locations

Each participating Memorial Hermann hospital offers a unique program for patients diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes and gestational diabetes. Contact us at any of our locations and ask us about support groups and classes.

The information presented on this page is educational and not intended as medical advice or the practice of medicine. Specific aspects of your outcomes and care should be addressed and answered after consultation with your physician.