Best Exercises for Diabetics

What kind of exercise is best for Type 2 diabetics, aerobic training or resistance training? Actually the answer is both. According to the American Diabetes Association:

Resistance training, similarly to aerobic training, improves metabolic features and insulin sensitivity and reduces abdominal fat in type 2 diabetic patients. … Recent data suggest that both aerobic and resistance training may exert beneficial effects on glucose control in subjects with type 2 diabetes.

In addition to weight loss, exercise builds muscle mass and stability. For those with Type 2 diabetes the loss of muscle mass makes it harder to maintain blood sugar levels. By adding mass, blood sugar levels are easier to control and there are gains in physical coordination and balance, which benefits those who are at risk of falling. Below are a few of the best exercises suggested for diabetics.

Walking for Diabetics

Walking requires no gym membership, just a good pair of shoes. Like all aerobic exercises, a brisk 45 minute walk raises the heart rate and burns fat. Walking is most beneficial when routinely done three times a week. Make sure to change things up, try different locations like an adjacent neighborhood, the local mall, or hiking trail.

Weight Training for Diabetics


This is my favorite! Weight training at home or in the gym is typically done indoors, making it easy to commit to a year-round routine. Plan two to three 45 minute sessions per week. Focus on the major muscle groups chest, back, and legs. When planning your routine prioritze free weights like dumbbells and barbells over machines, you will gain the most in coordination and balance.

Swimming for Diabetics

Swimming is a low impact aerobic exercise that is easy on the joints. In contrast to walking or jogging, it is also better for the feet. A routine in is not limited to swimming. Most pools have lanes that are about 4 feet deep. Water provides resistence when walking the lane that makes for a good workout. For the arms and upper-body, most sports stores sell hydro-grip blades and water weights for in-pool resistance training.

Bike Riding for Diabetics

Stationary bicycling, like swimming, is another exercise that doesn’t put pressure on the joints, and like weight training, it is done inside no matter the weather outside. For diabetics in particular, stationary biking improves blood flow to the legs while burning calories.

Pilates, Yoga, and Tai Chi

Other workout regiments that are helpful are Pilates, Yoga, and Tai Chi. Each of these can be done in the home or as a class and are low impact exercises that use your body weight for beneficial training.

It is alsways good to maintain a training log. Keeping a record of what exercises you did, how much or how long you worked out, and when you last trained allows you to track improvements, recall what you did last time, and make adjustments to your training. I like to record my weight, fasting blood sugar, calculate volume (total weight lifted during a workout) and intensity (average weight lifted during a workout).

Most important, have fun and take control of your diabetes.

-Steven

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