Disease Management

I am diabetic, how can I exercise?

Dr Ahmed Al Hamdani/ General Practice Specialist
11 April, 2016

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Diabetes mellitus is caused by disturbance of glucose metabolism in the body due to insufficient insulin availability which  leads to accumulation  of  glucose in the blood circulation instead of being utilized for energy production by body cells, mainly muscular cell fiber . This situation is opposite to fat cells which causes more glucose disturbance by decreasing insulin effectiveness.

How Physical Activity can help me?

Physical activity is best and easiest way to improve health and to control diabetes as  following:

  • physical activity helps in physiological  glucose utilization process .
  • it will increases your body’s sensitivity to insulin.
  • increases cell consumption of glucose to produce energy .
  • minimizes glucose body collection .
  • reduces the need for medication.
  • reduce fat cells and body fat cell mass.
  • increases muscle activity as burn unit.
  • maximizes muscle size and bulk.
  • improves heart works.
  • helps controlling body weight.
  • improves sleep.
  • boosts energy and strength.


What type of physical activity I can do?

It is recommended to perform any type of safe physical activity that a person enjoys, which could be aerobic or endurance

Type of exercise




Aerobic exercise (for heart and lung fitness)



Total of 150 min per week


At least 3 days a week with no more than two consecutive days without exercising

Resistance training

(for muscle and bone strength)


60 minutes per week

2 or more times per week (2–4) sets of 8–10 repetitions

Example: Movements using body weight as resistance: push up or pull up , resistance bands, weights.


When I have to avoid Physical Activity ?

  1. When blood sugar is above  270 mg /dl  (15 mmol) 
  2. When blood sugar is below 108 mg/dl (6 mmol) until after taking sugar snack.
  3.  If there is ketone in urine.
  4. Physical activity should be avoided for one hour after insulin injection .
  5. If you have acute illness.
  6. Avoid to exercising late evening before bed time as you may pass to very risky low blood sugar while you are sleeping.
  7. Listen to your body or when you feel unwell stop exercising immediately.


What precautions I need to take?

  1. You need medication or insulin dose and timing adjustment so it is highly advisable to consult your physician .
  2. You need to exercise at least one hour after your meal and insulin .
  3. It is worthwhile carrying a small bottle of water. It is important to keep your body well hydrated by taking frequent sips of water.
  4. When you feel unwell (headache, dizziness or confusion) try to cease your exercise and try to take high sugar snack like a cup of fruit juice, regardless your blood sugar status whether high or low; the sweat snack will save your life from the danger of low sugar levels but not will  harm you  if the blood sugar is high. Therefore it is highly advisable to check your blood sugar and take further action accordingly .
  5. Whenever you check your sugar level while exercising and it is below 6 mmol/l , you have to stop exercising and have sugar snack (about 15 gram of fast absorbing sugar, like sugar candy ). Wait for about 15 minutes to feel well then resume your exercise otherwise go for rest that day and try to contact your health care professionals for further assessment and dose adjustments.
  6. It is highly advisable to check your blood sugar before, during and after exercise especially in at the beginning of new exercise regimen or training program, also when your physician changes your medication dose or type.
  7. Try to have your ID or health card in your pocket in case of any emergencies. 



Why should I check my Foot ?

Diabetics are highly recommended to take extra care of their feet while exercising. It is suggested to use light pressure exercises on the feet due to poor blood circulation of a diabetic. Also, it is advised to wear good quality sport shoes which protect feet, skin and joints from injuries. Wounds on feet should be treated with high attention; the physician should be informed immediately if such a situation occurs.




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