Learning About Diabetes and Exercise

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Can you exercise if you have diabetes?

When you have diabetes, it's important to get regular exercise. It can help you manage your blood sugar level. You can still play sports, run, ride a bike, swim, and do other activities when you have diabetes.

How does exercise help when you have diabetes?

Getting regular exercise can help control your blood sugar.

Your body turns the food you eat into glucose, a type of sugar. You need this sugar for energy. When you have diabetes, the sugar builds up in your blood. But when you exercise, your body uses sugar. This helps keep it from building up in your blood and results in lower blood sugar and better control of diabetes.

Exercise may help you in other ways too. It can help you reach and stay at a healthy weight. It also helps improve blood pressure and cholesterol, which can reduce the risk of heart disease.

Exercise can make you feel stronger and happier. It can help you relax and sleep better. And it can give you confidence in other things you do.

Exercising safely when you have diabetes

Before you start a new exercise program, talk to your doctor about how and when to exercise. Some types of exercise can be harmful if your diabetes is causing other problems, such as problems with your feet. Your doctor can tell you what types of exercise are good choices for you.

Here are some general safety tips.

  • Take steps to avoid blood sugar problems.
    • Check your blood sugar before and after you exercise.
    • Ask your doctor what blood sugar range is safe for you when you exercise.
    • If you take medicine or insulin that lowers blood sugar, check your blood sugar before you exercise.
    • If your blood sugar is less than 90 mg/dL, you may need to eat a carbohydrate snack first.
    • Be careful when you exercise if your blood sugar is too high. Make sure to drink plenty of water.
  • Try to exercise at about the same time each day.

    This may help keep your blood sugar steady. If you want to exercise more, slowly increase how hard or long you exercise.

  • Have someone with you when you exercise.

    Or exercise at a gym. You may need help if your blood sugar drops too low.

  • Keep some quick-sugar food with you.

    You may get symptoms of low blood sugar during exercise or up to 24 hours later.

  • Use proper footwear and the right equipment.
  • Pay attention to your body.

    If you are used to exercising and notice that you cannot do as much as usual, talk to your doctor.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.