Articles / Type 2 Diabetes / 4 Ways to Exercise with Diabetes

Medically reviewed by Molly Maloof, MD | May 24, 2018

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, your doctor probably recommended exercise in addition to dietary changes to lose weight.

“Heading to the gym a couple times a week or even just walking around the block helps you burn more calories than you eat during the day and shed pounds.”

Recent research has shown additional benefits to exercise beyond just those associated with weight loss as well.
Fasting glucose levels, HbA1c levels, and HDL cholesterol all improved beyond what would be expected by just losing weight, meaning exercise is a necessary component to keep you healthy and manage your diabetes. Read on to find tips about how to ease into an exercise plan and make it work for you.

Exercise – The Best Prescription

 

Start Small…

Don’t go from 0-100 with your workout plan. That’s a sure-fire way to injure yourself and get burnt out quickly. Even if your goal is to do a big event like a 5K run or lift a certain amount of weight, start small with a walk around the block or using the lightest settings on the machines at the gym. Be aware that if you’re overweight or obese, you may even have to adapt some exercises to make them work for you. Talk with a doctor to make sure you’ve put together an exercise plan that’s right for you.

…and Work Up

Definitely don’t over-do your workouts, but try to do a little more each week. If you did 1,000 steps one day, try to do 1,050 the next. If you lifted 10 pounds last week, go for 11 pounds this week. Small changes like that add up in the long run. If you can get up to doing 20-25 minutes a day or 150 minutes a week of physical activity, you’re doing great and right within the American Diabetes Association’s recommendations (but remember, you don’t have to start there if it’s too much).

Don’t Use Food as a Reward

It’s tempting to want to have an extra snack after a good workout, but that will often derail your weight-loss goals pretty quickly. To put it in perspective, an hour long yoga class will only burn about 250-300 calories, or a little over a single Snickers bar. More intensive cardio won’t net you too many more calories, either. An indoor spin class, for example, only burns about 400 calories if you’re really pushing it – about four slices of bread. Instead of going for an unhealthy treat, find a snack that fits in with your doctor’s recommended foods that work with your treatment plan.

Keep Up The Exercise, Even If the Scale Doesn’t Change

Weight loss is sometimes a bit of a roller coaster. The scale will be down one day and up the next, though ideally you’ll be moving in a downward trend overall. But, even if the scale is up one day (or several days), keep on your exercise program. Because exercise has its own benefits to cardiovascular health, powering through a few heavy days can still really help as you manage your diabetes.

Exercise