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Best exercises for diabetic people

Dr. Rashmi ByakodiJan 17, 2024

Exercising has a significant number of health benefits, especially for those who have diabetes. It helps control blood sugar and decrease extra body weight. Both these factors are significantly risky for diabetes. Other than managing blood glucose and excess weight, exercising also helps manage impaired balance and flexibility in older adults with diabetes. Being inactive and lethargic may increase the risks associated with Type 2 diabetes. These risks namely include cardiovascular disease, eye, and kidney disease, obesity, dyslipidemia, insulin resistance, hypertension, and hyperglycemia. This article will let you know about some best exercises for diabetic people.




What are the best exercises for diabetes (diabetic people)?

Exercising consumes energy. This, in turn, increases the utilisation of glucose in your body and lowers your blood sugar level. Here are some well-known exercises for diabetics. 

1.  Walking

One of the easiest, most common, and most effective forms of exercise for diabetic people is walking. 30 to 40 minutes of brisk walking for 5 days a week can be advantageous for diabetic people. The most important aspects to be taken care of while walking are speed and duration. While walking, you should always start at a comfortable pace and then gradually increase the duration. Once you attain the maximum possible duration, start increasing your intensity (speed). This will help you burn body fat faster and increase your stamina.

2. Strength training

This is commonly referred to as muscle training. Muscles are closely involved in the storage and utilisation of blood sugar. Muscle training helps build lean and strong muscles and helps maintain healthy and strong bones.

Some of the strength training techniques include weight training, push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, lunges, crunches, and squats. Strength training should be done at least twice a week. If you experience significant muscle soreness or pain during exercise then you should immediately stop exercising and contact your trainer. People with uncontrolled blood pressure and fluctuating sugar levels should seek a doctor’s advice before starting these exercises.

3. Cycling

Since cycling is a repetitive aerobic exercise, it activates 70% of your muscle mass, especially in your lower limbs. Moreover, cycling is a non-traumatic sport with faster muscle recovery time. Regular cycling offers the following advantages.

  • Cycling stimulates muscle building which helps utilise blood glucose in your body efficiently.

  • If you have diabetes, regular cycling may help avert cardiovascular conditions.

  • While cycling, your heart’s pumping action increases, which helps lower blood pressure, obesity, and complications related to type 2 diabetes

  • Cycling also improves bone mass which reduces the risk of bone damage and fractures in people having type 2 diabetes

4. Swimming

Swimming is considered one of the best exercises for diabetes, especially for people who suffer from diabetic neuropathy (numbness or lack of feeling in hands and feet). Swimming strengthens the major muscles of your body. The muscle cells absorb blood sugar effectively in your body and help control diabetes. Swimming is a less painful and stressful workout that burns out around 350 to 500 calories per hour, which effortlessly helps to control diabetes. Additionally, being an aerobic exercise, swimming relieves your joints and burns unwanted calories. 

5. Dancing

Dancing for thirty minutes five days a week can help maintain the overall well-being of the organs that are most likely to get affected by diabetes. Here are the advantages of dancing.

  • It lowers your blood sugar

  • It strengthens your heart health

  • Improves blood circulation

  • Eases stress level

  • Helps burn calories and promotes weight loss

  • Improves fitness, coordination, and balance

  • Boosts immunity, brain power, and memory

Dance forms like aerobics, zumba, salsa, ballroom dancing, and Indian classical dancing are the best to keep your glucose levels in control and support healthy bone density.

6. Yoga

Being one of the traditional forms of exercise, yoga synchronises your movement with your breath so that your body can flow naturally to build strength, flexibility, and balance. It brings together three indispensable components of life: body, mind, and spirit. It helps improve multiple chronic conditions, including diabetes.

Yoga comprises various low-impact exercises that help lower oxidative stress, recover neurological degeneration, improve muscle mass, and increase mental health. Regular yoga practice can lower fasting and postprandial blood glucose levels and glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) levels, increase insulin sensitivity, improve lipid metabolism, and improve glucose tolerance. 

Some of the yoga practices, including asanas, pranayama, meditation, the cleansing process, mudras, relaxation, and mindfulness, are known for reducing blood sugar levels and helping manage comorbid diseases related to diabetes.

7. Tai chi

Tai chi is an ancient Chinese form of exercise that combines breathing and relaxation techniques with gentle and steady movements. Studies show that tai chi can effectively manage blood sugar and HbA1c levels in diabetics.

Diabetes complications such as cardiovascular disease, visual disorders, and stroke are major issues. Tai chi emphasises strength, flexibility, and balance through slow fluid movement combined with deep breathing. As per studies, tai chi has beneficial effects on muscle strength, cardio-respiratory health, peripheral circulation, balance, anxiety, and reduced tension. These eventually contribute to minimising diabetic complications.  

Exercises to be avoided by diabetics

The major obstacle to exercise for diabetic people is that it can lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). It is a condition in which your blood sugar levels fall below the normal range and may result in symptoms like excessive sweating, shaking, a fast heart rate, dizziness, hunger, anxiety, irritability, confusion, and fainting.

Therefore, it is essential that you avoid these exercises when you have diabetes.

  • High-impact and strenuous exercises such as walking long distances, treadmill running, jumping/hopping, and isometric exercises

  • Exercising in very hot or cold conditions

  • Weight training exercises when you have a sore foot or a foot injury

  • Decline bench press

  • Mountain biking and mogul skiing

How to strategize a diabetes-friendly workout plan

Below are a few points to remember when you plan to start exercising.

  • Set an achievable and realistic goal in the beginning and increase it gradually

  • Always have a light snack like a few almonds, a banana, or a fruit smoothie before exercising

  • Hydrate yourself adequately before your workout

  • Prioritise getting enough sleep

  • Make sure to wear the right clothes and footwear

  • Be aware of the symptoms of low sugar, especially while doing High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

  • Keep enough glucose with you to prevent low-sugar mishaps

  • Always consult your healthcare provider before starting the workout regimen

  • Try accommodating at least 150 minutes of exercise in a week

  • Avoid being physically inactive for two consecutive days

Follow these steps after you finish your workouts.

  • Do some stretching

  • Use a foam roller to reduce muscle soreness and eliminate muscle knots

  • Have some post-workout snacks

  • Log your workouts every day

  • Have a weather-friendly shower post-workout

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here’s a list of common questions and answers related to best exercises for diabetes.


Which is the best exercise to lower blood sugar?

Although every exercise can help lower blood sugar, exercises such as moderate-to-brisk walking, swimming, cycling, yoga, strength training exercises, and dancing are considered good for people with diabetes.

Which exercises are to be avoided in diabetes?

High-impact and strenuous exercises such as walking long distances, treadmill running, jumping/hopping, isometric exercises, and heavy lifting are to be avoided when you have diabetes.

What is the ideal blood sugar level?

The ideal range of blood sugar levels is 140 mg/dL. Anything between 140 to 200 mg/dL indicates prediabetes, and if it is above 200 mg/dL after 2 hours of eating, then it indicates diabetes.


 Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.


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