Exercising With Type 2 Diabetes: Prescription for Health

American College of Sports Medicine

March 31, 2010


If you have type 2 diabetes, regular physical activity is essential for controlling your blood glucose and managing your weight. Exercise also improves how well your body responds to insulin, which may reduce the need for medication because your muscle and fat will do a better job of taking glucose out of the blood. Furthermore, exercise may help protect you against heart disease, which often accompanies type 2 diabetes, by reducing body fat, blood pressure and improving your cholesterol levels. It will help you better understand your diet and exercise if you closely monitor your blood glucose levels to understand how you respond to different types of activities.

Getting Started

  • Talk with your health care provider before starting an exercise program and ask for specific programming recommendations and possible changes to your medications.

  • Your exercise prescription must be tailored to your medication schedule and the presence and severity of any diabetic complications, as well as your specific goals for your exercise program.

  • For every one hour of exercise, consume an additional 15 grams of carbohydrates before or after your workout.

  • Daily exercise is highly recommended. At a minimum, do moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise for 20 to 60 minutes at least four days per week.

  • On two days per week, consider doing a lower-resistance, lower-intensity strength training program with one set of exercises for the major muscle groups, with 10 to 15 repetitions.

  • Start slowly and gradually progress the intensity and duration of your workouts.

  • Take frequent breaks during activity if needed.

Exercise Cautions

  • Avoid activity when your blood glucose is too high.

  • Extended or vigorous activity may trigger an excessive release of adrenaline and other hormones that can counteract the effects of insulin, thereby increasing blood glucose levels.

  • Drink plenty of fluids before and after exercise.

Your exercise program should be designed to maximize the benefits with the fewest risks of aggravating your health or physical condition. Consider contacting a certified health and fitness professional* who can work with you and your health care provider to establish realistic goals and design a safe and effective program that addresses your specific needs.

For more information, visit www.exerciseismedicine.org or e-mail eim@acsm.org.

* If your health care provider has not cleared you for independent physical activity and would like you to be monitored in a hospital setting or a medical fitness facility, you should exercise only under the supervision of a certified professional. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has two groups of certified fitness professionals that could meet your needs. The ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist (CES) is certified to support those with heart disease, diabetes and lung disease. The ACSM Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist (RCEP) is qualified to support patients with a wide range of health challenges. You may locate all ACSM-certified fitness professionals by using the ProFinder at www.acsm.org.

Sources: ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription and other ACSM publications.


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