By Alan L. Rubin, Cait James

Exercise is a key part of the foundation for the management of diabetes (the other parts of the foundation are diet and medication). Everyone with diabetes should exercise, but be sure to check with your doctor if any of the following apply to you:

  • You have complications of diabetes like eye disease, kidney disease, nerve disease, or heart disease.

  • You’re obese.

  • You have a physical limitation of some kind.

  • You have high blood pressure.

  • You’re on medication.

To make exercise safe and healthful, follow these tips:

  • Wear an ID bracelet stating that you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

  • Test your blood glucose often — before, during, and after exercise.

  • Choose proper socks and proper-fitting shoes.

  • Drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise.

  • Carry treatment for low blood glucose with you at all times.

  • Exercise with a buddy.

  • Reduce your insulin dose and/or eat some carbs before you exercise.

If you’re wondering when you should exercise, the answer is: any time you’ll do it faithfully. Some people are morning exercisers, and other people prefer exercising in the evening. The time of day you exercise doesn’t matter — the key is to do it!

The American Diabetes Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise spread out over at least three days per week, with no more than two consecutive days passing without exercise. Whether you should do more than that depends on your goals — maybe you want to lose weight, become a champion racer or swimmer, or just maintain a healthy mental state. As you exercise more, you’ll become better conditioned, but if your exercise is somewhat hard for you to do, you’re working out at the right intensity.

Resistance exercise (like weight lifting) is just as good as aerobic exercise for your diabetes. Just be careful not to do so much that you injure yourself and have to stop.