What Kinds of Activity Should I Do?

UW Health Diabetes Management: Man flexing his muscleIn addition to eating a healthy and balanced diet, exercise is another way to help manage diabetes because regular activity can help lower your blood sugar.
A good physical activity program includes:

Aerobic "Heart Healthy" Activity
This means you are doing an activity that increases your heart rate, works your muscles and increases your breathing.
For most people, the goal should be 30 minutes a day, five days a week. If you haven't been active, check with your doctor before starting a heart-healthy exercise program.
You should start out slowly; 5-10 minutes, 2-3 times a week and slowly work up. You may choose to do three 10-minute sessions a day, like a 10-minute walk after each meal.
 woman lifting hand weights
Here are some heart healthy activities to try:
  • Walking
  • Dancing
  • Swimming
  • Hiking
  • Ice skating

Strength Training


This type of activity is done several times a week. It helps build strong bones and muscles. Here are some choices:

  • Join a class that works with weights, bands or tubes
  • Lift weights (a soup can) at home after being taught how to lift correctly.

    * If you have retinopathy (an eye disease from your diabetes), check with your doctor before doing strength training. It may increase damage in your eyes.

Flexibility Exercises (Stretching)


These exercises are also called stretching. They help keep you flexible and prevent injury. Gentle stretching at the end of heart-healthy exercise and strength training will help you be flexible and prevent injury. Ask your health care team for information on how to stretch. After exercise, muscles should be gently stretched.

Being Active Throughout the Day Helps


In addition to the three types of exercise listed above, there are many chances throughout your day to be more active. These tips will help you increase your activity:

  • Walk instead of drive
  • Take the stairs if you are able instead of the elevator 
  • Park at the far end of any lot and walk into the store
  • Do yard work - like push mowing or raking a garden
  • Consider getting a pedometer (a step counter). This can be purchased at most retail department stores, sporting goods stores or some pharmacies. They also are available online. Track how many steps you currently take. Try to increase the number daily. A good goal for most people is 10,000 steps a day (five miles).