Maintaining regular weekly exercise and physical activity is a key part of living well with diabetes along with a proper meal planning approach and taking your diabetes medications as prescribed.

Benefits of exercise for diabetes

“Physical activity increases your body cells’ sensitivity to insulin, ​making insulin work better for you in moving glucose from your bloodstream into the cells to be used as energy,” says Ms Kala Adaikan, Senior Principal Dietitian, at the​ Department of Dietetics, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth​ group.

Your body cells can also remove glucose from your blood using a mechanism totally separate from insulin during exercise. Exercise has the potential to consistently lower your blood glucose levels and eventually lower HbA1c. This may result in you requiring fewer diabetes medications or less insulin.

Exercise and risk of hypoglycaemia

If you have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes and you are on insulin therapy, you are at risk of early (during exercise) and late onset (hours after or overnight) hypoglycaemia after exercise.

How your blood glucose levels behave will also depend on the following factors:

  1. ​Type of exercise (aerobic or anaerobic)
  2. Duration of exercise
  3. Intensity of exercise

Depending on these factors and your pre-exercise blood glucose levels, you may be required to take additional carbohydrates or reduce insulin, or do both.

How much exercise is recommended?

If you have type 2 diabetes, at least 150 minutes of accumulated moderate intensity aerobic physical activity per week as well as resistance strength training is recommended.

To achieve 150 minutes of physical activity in a week, try to do 30 minutes of exercise 5 times a week.

In addition, physical activity paired with a well thought-out meal planning approach and nutrition intervention for weight loss has been shown to help people achieve:

  1. Weight control
  2. Improved glycaemia
  3. Improved blood pressure
  4. Improved lipid profile

Before embarking on an exercise regimen, it i​​s essential that you receive prior education on exercise management strategies.

If you want to be active, or you are experiencing hypoglycaemia with activity, you should seek advice from your diabetes care team.

See previous page to learn how alcohol affects those with diabetes​.

Ref: O17