Diabetes Mellitus and Exercise

Bernard Zinman, MD; Neil Ruderman, MD, Phil; Barbara N. Campaigne, PhD; John T. Devlin, MD; Stephen H. Schneider, MD.


March 01, 2010

In This Article


The recent Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health underscores the pivotal role physical activity plays in health promotion and disease prevention. It recommends that individuals accumulate 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week. In the context of diabetes, it is becoming increasingly clear that the epidemic of type 2 diabetes sweeping the globe is associated with decreasing levels of activity and an increasing prevalence of obesity. Thus, the importance of promoting exercise as a vital component of the prevention, as well as management of type 2 diabetes must be viewed as a high priority. It must also be recognized that the benefit of exercise in improving the metabolic abnormalities of type 2 diabetes is probably greatest when it is used early in its progression from insulin resistance to impaired glucose tolerance to overt hyperglycemia requiring treatment with oral agents and finally to insulin.

For people with type 1 diabetes, the emphasis must be on adjusting the therapeutic regimen to allow safe participation in all forms of physical activity consistent with an individual's desires and goals. Ultimately, all patients with diabetes should have the opportunity to benefit from the many valuable effects of exercise.