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Benefits of Exercise for People with Diabetes


If you have diabetes, keeping your blood sugar in control can be a challenge. Your medicines may be changed several times before you and your doctor get it right. You might even end up taking more than one medication. What you eat is also important, and you’ve probably changed how you eat. You may have been advised to lose weight. If so, you’re probably already exercising. But did you know that exercise can help you manage your blood sugar too?

Building muscle helps use glucose better

When you have diabetes, you have too much glucose, or sugar, in your blood. This may be because your body doesn’t make enough insulin. It may also be because your body doesn’t use insulin correctly. In either case, exercise can be helpful.

Glucose is what your body burns for fuel. Every cell in your body uses glucose, including muscle cells. Normally, insulin is the key which unlocks the cell so that the glucose can get in. When you have diabetes, the “key” doesn’t fit the lock very well. You end up with too much glucose in your blood. When you exercise, your muscles can use the glucose without needing insulin. When you exercise, your body pulls glucose out of your bloodstream to use for fuel. This will lower your blood sugar.

Exercise also makes your body more sensitive to insulin. So if you’re insulin resistant, your insulin resistance actually goes down when you exercise. This lets your body make better use of the glucose in your blood.

Much like a chicken or turkey, your body has both “white muscle” and “red muscle.” White muscle is much better at using glucose than red muscle. White muscle is also the kind of muscle you build when you do resistance training or strength training. This means that the more white muscle you build through exercise, the more glucose your body is able to use and the lower your blood sugar becomes.

Exercise helps you lose weight, too

Exercise is also a key ingredient in any weight loss plan. Keeping your body at a healthy weight is important for everyone. It’s especially important if you have diabetes.

Exercise doesn't just help you lose weight. It also cuts the amount of fat you have around your organs like your liver and spleen. This is even more important than losing the fat on the outside of your body.

Exercise is also good for your heart and your brain

The benefits of exercise don’t stop there. Studies show that regular exercise lowers your risk of heart disease. You’re less likely to have a heart attack or stroke if you exercise. And it doesn’t matter how old you are. Whether you start exercising at age 20, 40, or 80, your risk goes down. New research even suggests that exercising might protect you from Alzheimer’s.

Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health. This is doubly true if you have diabetes. Keeping your body at a healthy weight and your blood sugar at a normal level are key issues. Exercise can help you achieve these goals.


The contents of DiabetesOutlook.com are intended solely for informational purposes and do not replace the advice of your physician or diabetes care team. You should not rely on any information provided by DiabetesOutlook.com without also consulting your physician. DiabetesOutlook.com maintains all information collected in accordance with applicable law.

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