Exercising with Diabetes

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Diabetes is one of the most talked about lifestyle diseases in the media, it is a serious issue facing the world at the moment and it is getting worse! It is already one of the most demanding issues facing the healthcare system and the incidence of diabetes is increasing faster than both heart disease and cancer.

So what is diabetes?

Diabetes is the umbrella term for three distinct diseases (type 1, type 2 and gestational) but all of them refer to a condition in which the body’s ability to maintain a healthy blood glucose level is compromised. All three conditions are managed slightly differently and require daily attention in order to manage effectively.

What can you do?

The good news is that diabetes CAN be managed with a bit of focus on good nutrition and regular exercise. Research has shown that exercising from two to seven days per week at a light to moderate intensity is very beneficial in managing diabetes (not to mention a host of other issues). It doesn’t seem to matter whether the exercise is aerobic in nature (walking, running, cycling etc.) or resistance training based (ie: hitting the weight room), both work very well in helping the body utilise blood glucose, particularly in the muscles of the arms and legs (where most of the work is done). As usual taking a balanced approach to your exercise program is likely to yield the best results by including a mix of aerobic and resistance training activity.

How long should I work out?

Well, that really depends on you. The guidelines for physical activity suggest that from 20 – 60 minutes is an appropriate time frame. How long you train for will be dependent on your current level of fitness and experience as well as the intensity of the training you are about to perform. The real limiting factor is what experts call volitional fatigue, which is a fancy way of saying when you feel like you have worked out, but are not yet to the point of exhaustion, you should stop. Having worked with clients for the last 10 years my advice would be start slow and easy, you can always make it harder next time. Remember though, consistency is going to be the most important thing for you, training so hard on your first day you need to take the next three off is not going to help manage your diabetes!


It is very important that you do not train when you are feeling out of sorts or unwell and that you get yourself cleared from your medical team before embarking on any form of exercise program.

Strategies for Success

Make your exercise fun! Choose an activity you enjoy doing and focus you routine on that, the more fun you have, the more likely you will be consistent.

Make it social. Take a friend or family member with you on your training sessions or join a group. Research has shown consistently that people who exercise with someone else stick to it longer and have more fun.

Start slow. As I mentioned above it is not about how much you can do in one day, but about how often you exercise. Your aim is to move a little more each day

Listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, get it looked into. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking any discomfort, pain or other unidentifiable sensation will take care of itself.

Consider a hiring a professional. A good personal trainer or exercise physiologist can be worth their weight in gold, particularly at the beginning of your exercise journey or if you are carrying an old injury or two. A good fitness pro will help you tick off all the points above plus more besides. Look into it!

Parting Comments

Exercise is tremendously valuable for helping to manage diabetes and improve quality of life. Combined with good nutrition it is a powerful tool for living a healthy and energetic lifestyle. Make exercise a priority in your life, don’t sell yourself short by saying you are too busy or that you will get to it later. Start today, start now. You have the same amount of time as everybody else, how you choose to use it is up to you.


For more information on managing your diabetes check out Diabetes Australia’s website.

For more information on how to implement the ideas in this blog post or to get some advice on exercise call us on 9651 5559 and speak with Chris our resident Health Coach and Personal Trainer.

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