Diabetes and Exercise

Diabetes – when you should and shouldn’t be exercising

Exercise is really important for the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes. But it’s not as simple as just going for a walk. An Exercise Physiologist can help you to figure out the best way forward in terms of managing diabetes and exercise.

Exercise is important as it not only impacts insulin and glucose response, but it also treats comorbidities such as obesity and high blood pressure at the same time.

Diabetes cannot be reversed, but it can be managed.

Damage to the pancreas that leads to decreased insulin production cannot be reversed with exercise. Exercise can however, impact that way our muscles respond to insulin and glucose, and therefore regulate our sugar levels.

Here’s a couple points to consider with exercise and diabetes:

Time of the day

Often an Exercise Physiologist is just happy to have people moving, no matter the time of day. With Diabetics however, the timing of exercise is very important.

In general, exercising in the morning is best for regulating blood sugar levels. It is also recommended as exercising at night increases your risk of having a hypo (hypoglycaemic event) overnight.

For people on insulin or medication, we need to consider peak times to avoid a ‘double dose’. Exercise is ultimately going to reduce your blood glucose levels, so if you exercise just after a peak dose of insulin, then you are also risking a hypo.


A hypo occurs when blood sugar levels drop to 4.0mmol. Although, I like to reinforce the “Under 5 not safe to drive” rule. The tricky part when balancing exercise – is that the exercise effect might have a 12 hour delay…hence the preference for morning exercise. If you are exercising in the morning, please don’t skip breakfast!

Please be sure to check your BGLs before exercising, and if they seem a little low, it might be worth having a small snack.


A hyper is the opposite – it’s when the sugar levels are too high. It’s important to check your blood glucose level before exercising, because exercise can actually cause an initial spike in sugars. This is because the body recognises it’s need to fuel some movement. For this reason, if your sugar levels are over 16.0mmol, its not appropriate for you to be in our group session. Sugar levels need to be somewhat controlled first in order to participate.

With these points considered, exercise needs to be completed on a regular basis. The benefits last for a 48 hour window, which means we should be doing some form of exercise at least every second day. This includes strength training, but that’s a whole other topic to discuss on another blog

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