Diabetes and exercise benefits: get motivated by knowledge

Knowing about benefits of exercise in diabetics would help you pursue exercise with more zeal. Find below detailed information on this topic

Immediate benefit of exercise in diabetes

Aerobic exercise, also called endurance exercise or cardio workout, includes exercises which make your heart work more and thus help in keeping heart fit. Examples include: walking, jogging, cycling etc.

Moderate aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking for 150 minutes/week,  improves blood insulin action and blood sugar almost immediately and these effects last for a period of 24-72 hours

Studies have reported that if diabetics do moderate level aerobic exercise, their total hours during the day when they have raised blood sugar levels, decrease by more than 30%

Not only that, these effects of exercise last for 2-3 days. So, exercising on alternate days is as beneficial as exercising everyday provided the total time of exercise per week is the same


Resistance exercises which involves  group of muscles at a time and result in greater muscle strength and resistance (eg. push-ups, abdominal crunches etc.) also result in lower blood sugar levels. Studies comparing resistance training with aerobic exercise have reported similar blood sugar lowering effects

Mild intensity exercises such as yoga, which is mostly stretching and resistance exercise, also results in reduced blood glucose levels in short term but less data is available on the exact levels of reduction

Unstructured physical activity such as walks of short duration (15 minutes or less)  and low velocity (less than one mile/hour) also result in health benefits such as maintenance of weight loss/prevention of excessive weight gain

Use of pedometer step count is increasing as a way to keep tab on your physical activity. They were found to  increase physical activity by nearly 30%. It helps to set a goal such as to take 7,000, or 10,000 steps per day!

Long-term effects of regular exercise in diabetes

The longer term effects of exercise are  better blood sugar control, better heart risk factor levels and weight control

Better blood sugar levels: Both aerobic and resistance training improve insulin action and  blood sugar control

Lower risk of death from CVD : This is due to reduced fat oxidation and  beneficial effect on both on bad/LDL cholesterol levels and blood pressure

Body weight maintenance and loss:  One hour of daily moderate aerobic exercise produces at least as much fat loss as does equivalent caloric restriction

The most successful programs for long-term weight control have involved combinations of diet, exercise, and behavior modification

Increased muscle mass and strength: resistance exercise results in increased muscle mass and thereby has long term beneficial effects in diabetics

Mood and quality of life:  Increased physical fitness can reduce symptoms of depression and improve health-related Quality Of Life (QOL) in those with diabetes

Is exercise risky for diabetic?

There is a common fear that exercise increase the risk of hypoglycemia. Is it true No! The risk of exercise-induced hypoglycaemia is minimal unless you are on insulin or drugs that can cause hypoglycemia

For people who are on insulin or these drugs, simple measures such as checking your blood sugar by glucometer and eating half a banana before exercise will help you avoid hypoglycemia

To see the whole list of concerns about exercise in diabetes, read: ‘cautions for diabetics considering exercise

CHECK OUT: Our references for diabetes mellitus