Exercising When You Have Diabetes

Prior to starting a new exercise program, a person with diabetes who hasn’t exercised previously should check with a doctor, especially if over the age of 3 or if diabetes has been present for ten years or longer.

You should check with your GP if you have any of the following risk factors (so that you can choose the appropriate exercise):

  • A history of coronary artery disease or elevated blood pressure
  • A physical limitation Obesity
  •  The presence of any diabetic complications like retinopathy, kidney disease or neuropathy
  • Use of medications

Once exercise is begun, the person with diabetes can do a lot to make it safe and successful. Some important steps to take include

  • Carrying treatment for hypoglycaemia (if required)
  • Choosing cotton socks that sit loosely around your legs or ankles, and comfortable, well-fitting shoes suitable for the type of activity
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Exercising with a friend who knows the signs of hypoglycaemia and how to treat it
  • Not exercising if your blood glucose is greater than 1 mmol/L or if you’re feeling unwell
  • Testing the blood glucose more often to understand what happens when you exercise
  • Thinking about the timing, intensity and duration of the exercise
  • Understanding insulin action (if on insulin) and when it’s working at its peak
  • Wearing a medical alert bracelet

If you have diabetes, when exercising, you don’t need to :

  • Buy special clothing other than the right shoes and socks (and possibly cycle shorts if you’re bike riding)
  • Expect to lose weight from certain ‘spots’ by repetitively exercising them
  • Exercise to the point of pain
  • Use exercise gadgets like belts or other objects that don’t require you to move

Don’t continue exercising if you have tightness in your chest, chest pain, severe shortness of breath or dizziness. If you experience any of these symptoms, immediately see your GP or go to the emergency department of your local hospital.