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Publication #FCS8613

Healthy Living: Exercise and Diabetes1

Sergio Romero and Linda B. Bobroff2

Staying active is one of the best things you can do for your health. Regular physical activity can help you control your blood glucose levels, reduce body fat, and decrease your risk of heart disease. Staying active also can help you sleep better, improve posture and balance, maintain independent living, and improve quality of life. Below are some tips to help you create a fun and healthy exercise program. Start today!

Before Starting to Exercise

Talk to your health care team. They may want you to have a physical exam before starting your new program. Your team can suggest exercises or design a workout routine that is best for your medical and physical needs.

Figure 1. 

Speak with your doctor before beginning a vigorous exercise program, especially if you have been sedentary for a while.



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Getting Started

It isn't always easy to start exercising but once you find enjoyable activities, you'll see that staying active isn't as difficult as you thought!

  • Start slowly and build up.

  • Find activities that you enjoy.

  • Accumulate 20–40 minutes of moderate activity on most days of the week.

  • Drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after your workout.

  • To prevent injury, warm up and stretch before you start. Then, cool down and stretch again at the end of your exercise routine.

Figure 2. 

Protect your muscles by warming up and then gently stretching before exercising.



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Exercise Tips for People with Diabetes

  • Get a thorough medical exam before you start to exercise.

  • Work with your health care team to design an exercise program specific to your needs.

  • Always wear your medical identification bracelet, necklace, or ID tag in case of an emergency.

  • Check your blood glucose before and after exercise.

  • If you start to feel shaky or nervous during your activity, your blood glucose may have gotten too low. Stop what you are doing and check your blood glucose to be sure you in your targeted range.

  • Exercise 1 to 1½ hours after eating to prevent low blood glucose.

  • Be prepared to treat low blood glucose. Always carry juice, hard candy, non-diet soda, raisins, or another fast-acting source of sugar.

  • Inspect your feet daily and after exercising.

  • Avoid exercising when your blood glucose is high (240 mg/dl or more).

Figure 3. 

People with diabetes should wear a medical alert bracelet, in case of an emergency.



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Recommended Resources

American Diabetes Association. Food & Fitness. Accessed December 5, 2014.

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC). What I need to know about Physical Activity and Diabetes. Accessed December 5, 2014.



La versión en español de este documento es Vida Saludable: El ejercicio y la diabetes (FCS8613-Span). This document is FCS8613, one of a series of the Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date August 2004. Revised December 2014. Visit the EDIS website at


Sergio Romero, PhD, former ENAFS education assistant; and Linda B. Bobroff, PhD, RD, LD/N, professor; Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.