Why exercise is non-negotiable for people with diabetes

Exercise is an essential component for managing diabetes.

Diabetes is just one of the many chronic ailments that is so prevalent in the U.S. with millions of people suffering each year and thousands newly diagnosed by the same token.

And whether you have type 1 or 2 diabetes, making healthy lifestyle choices in the form of exercise (physical and mental), diet, and mental health management are vital for keeping this life-threatening illness at bay.

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So, we’re going to focus on the exercise aspect of diabetes management because it’s a crucial component. But, we’ll also briefly cover diet, and mental exercise (meditation, etc) because these factors all play a huge role in your overall well-being.

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that affects how the body uses blood sugar and it results from high blood glucose, or blood sugar levels. Now, glucose is supplied in our bodies from the foods we consume, and then it’s used for energy in the body with the help of the hormone insulin; which is produced by the pancreas.

Diabetes. Image taken from Fitness Volt’s website.

But if this process does not occur efficiently due to several possible factors like lifestyle habits and even family history of the disease; diabetes results, which can then cause many health issues that can potentially affect the heart, kidneys, feet and nerves.

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What’s The Difference Between type 1 and type 2?

The two forms are type 1 and type 2 with the former being more severe and the latter the most common form that people suffer from. Over 90% of people who have diabetes are type 2. (1)

Type 1 means the body no longer produces insulin, and it occurs more in children and young adults. But it results from the immune system attacking the cells in your pancreas which creates insulin. So, daily treatment is absolutely crucial. About 10% or so of people diagnosed with diabetes are type 1.

Type 2 means the body does not utilize insulin effectively or that it doesn’t create it at all. This form is more common in middle-aged and older people but anyone can develop it.

And countless studies have proven the positive effects of exercise for the prevention and management of diabetes and insulin resistanceBut, these effects are much more prominent in combination with making healthy lifestyle choices.

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So, How Does Exercise Help With Diabetes?

Let’s talk about how exercise helps to manage and improve diabetes.

It reduces stress

Stress affects nearly everyone and with the fast-paced, poor diet, and the high-expectation world we live in today, it’s no wonder we’re experiencing so much dis-ease in the body.

Image taken from FitnessVolt’s website.

Stress causes hormones like adrenaline and cortisol to be released in excessive amounts, and when these hormone levels are sustained in the body, health and disease result. It also has a direct correlation with increased blood glucose levels and only exacerbates the issue. (2)

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So, stress management is a must for the sake of your overall health. And exercise is a very necessary weapon in your stress-management arsenal because it not only helps to manage the disease but it also staves it off and can even help to improve it.

Exercise releases feel-good chemicals in the brain called endorphins which directly impact mood and distract from many of the typical stressors of lifeBut it also strengthens the heart, potentially lowers blood pressure, and gives you more confidence as well. (3)

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It’s Important For Weight Management

Overweight and obese individuals on average at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes due to their physical condition.

David Marrero, PhD, president of health care and education for the American Diabetes Association has a very good saying when it comes to the relationship between weight and diabetes

If I suddenly take a bunch of gravel and throw it in the back of your car, you can still probably make 70 mph on the interstate. But you’re going to make the engine work a little harder. If I put 1,000 pounds in your car, that effect increases. I can probably put enough weight in so, eventually, your car no longer can perform like it needs to.”

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He also explained…

What we know in diabetes prevention, and in prediabetes, is that a very modest amount of weight loss has this huge reduction in riskYou lose 7% of your body weight, you cut your risk [of developing diabetes] by 60%. And, in fact, if you’re over 65, it’s over 70%.”

As you can see, exercise is not optional, but rather a necessity, especially if you’re an overweight individual.

You want to be eating lots of dark leafy greens, very little meat (substitute), whole grains, healthy fats, good carbs, and some fruits. But, the greens should make up the majority of your diet while complex carbs, fruits, and fats should be consumed in smaller amounts. (4)

And you should avoid anything processed, refined, and high on the Glycemic Index Scale. But certain fats (saturated and trans fats) and even sodium should be on the lower side.

Exercise Can Lessen The Impact Of Unhealthy Nutritional Habits

Sometimes a healthy diet is a difficult thing to maintain with all of the delectable options and lack of nutritional knowledge.


But the good news is that exercise can lessen the impact of a bad diet’s effects on health, in a society where processed, fast-food options are the main source of nutrition for many. And a big reason is that it staves off chronic symptoms associated with certain ailments.

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Exercise Improves Your Mental Health

A diagnosis of diabetes or any other chronic disease can be discouraging and it can certainly do a number on one’s mental health. In fact, people suffering from diabetes are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, and even eating disordersThen tack on the added responsibilities regarding the daily treatment schedule and it’s a real challenge for some individuals. (5)

Image taken from Fitness Volt’s website.

But the illness itself can also bring on a mental disturbance in the previously mentioned forms due to the potential fluctuations of blood sugar levels; which when all added up together, can cause a condition called diabetes distress.

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And many think that there’s no use in trying to do anything to try and improve this condition due to feeling hopeless and helpless.

And therefore, mental health worsens from this doomed thought process. Well, the absolute truth of the matter is, exercise is just as important for your mental well-being as it is for physical health.

They go hand-in-hand and one without the other is always a recipe for disease. And that is why doing some form of aerobic and/or anaerobic exercise daily is crucial for sustaining your health and well-being.

A 12-week study found that regular aerobic activity has a significant positive impact on self-esteem and mental health which is directly connected with a better quality of life. (6)

So, whatever activity you choose, be consistent. Weight training, jogging, sports, pure cardio… these are all very viable options. And based on research, all forms whether aerobic, anaerobic, or combined activities are equally good at improving HbA1c values. (7)

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But don’t forget about the mental exercise aspect of mental health management; like meditation, therapy, etc because without these, you could be fighting an uphill battle. Talking to someone and implementing cognitive strategies are going to make the biggest difference for your mental health.

Engaging in mindful/meditative activities will allow you to focus on the present moment and healing, rather than dwelling on the problem/sAnd this is how many people combat depression, boost their immune system, and improve cognitive abilities.

How Much Exercise Should Someone With Diabetes Do?

This can obviously vary between individuals based on current physical condition. If you haven’t exercised in a while, start out very slowly as to not overwork yourself. If you’ve been exercising lightly then turn up the intensity little by little.

And if you’re serious into fitness, well, good on you! Keep it up and remember, it’s a powerful weapon in your fight against diabetes.


The American Diabetes Association recommends starting off with a light walk for those who have sedentary for a whileBut do it in a way that promotes a relaxing experience. For instance, listen to a calming audiobook and/or take a stroll through your favorite area with a loved one.



And always consult with your doctor before doing any exercise to ensure the process runs smoothly and for your absolute safety.

Sample Workout Routine For Those With Diabetes

There’s no difference in the type of activities you can participate in when compared to someone who does not have diabetes. Do fun exercise that’ll keep you inspired to keep up with your activities. But, try your best to not overdo it and stop when you feel decently tired.

Old School Chest Workout. Image taken from Fitness Volt’s website.

Now, since weight training is very beneficial for maintaining a healthy, we’ve put together a little workout split that you can follow for at least a month before switching up your routine.

Make sure to warm up with lighter weight for a few sets before the working sets which are shown below, and avoid using really heavy weights (which is why we’ve chosen moderate rep ranges). But you should still train with at least moderate intensity to elicit results.

Here’s an example weight training routine including the days and exercises…  adjust as needed.





  • Rest day: Still do 30 minutes of moderately intense cardio (your choice) or go for a brisk walk.




  • Rest day: Still do 30 minutes of moderately intense cardio (your choice) or go for a brisk walk.

Repeat the routine on Monday.

You can train your core 3-4 days per week as well by doing 3 rounds of front planks, and lying side hip raises to keep things simple starting out.

When Is The Best Time To Exercise?

At least one to three hours after a meal when your blood sugar levels are likely relatively higher.

But, if you take insulin always make sure to check your blood sugar levels prior to, and following any type of physical activity. If your levels are below 100 mg/dL, eat something to bring it up because you can be at high risk for hypoglycemia.

If levels are over 250, then refrain from exercise for the moment, as it can potentially make the situation much worse.

Also, it’s important to check your levels following any form of activity to make sure you’re within a healthy range and to avoid hypoglycemia.

Wrapping Up

Exercise is a crucial component for the management and improvement of diabetes.

You don’t have to go ultra hard but you can definitely turn up the intensity a little without worrying about doing too much if you take all the necessary precautions beforehand. Diabetes may be an inconvenience in many ways but that doesn’t mean you can’t live your life how you want too.

And making it a priority to be active on a daily basis will allow you to stave off many of the potentially negative effects and symptoms. So, get into a routine and take control by doing what’s necessary,

Diabetes or not, physical activity is a key component for promoting and maintaining optimal levels of health, both physically and mentally.

But you don’t want to forget how vital diet and mental exercise (meditation, therapy, etc) are in a healthy regime for encouraging a better lifestyle as every preventative component should be up to par.


Stay tuned to Baaghi TV for more updates. Originally published on fitnessvolt.com by Mathew Magnante.

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