Diabetes Management

Best Exercises For Diabetes Prevention

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By Apollo 24|7, Published on- 05 July 2023, Updated on - 07 July 2023

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Regular exercise plays a vital role in managing type 2 diabetes and preventing its onset. Numerous studies have demonstrated that exercise improves blood glucose control and aids in weight management, which are key factors in diabetes management. Additionally, certain types of exercise can address common health issues experienced by older adults suffering from diabetes, including balance and flexibility impairments. By incorporating exercise into your routine, you can enhance your overall health and reduce diabetes complications. Read on to learn more about how exercise can help in preventing and managing diabetes and what to keep in mind while coming up with an effective exercise routine. 

How Does Exercise Help Prevent Diabetes?

Exercise plays a crucial role in managing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes by effectively lowering your blood glucose levels and boosting insulin sensitivity throughout your body. Here are the benefits of diabetes: 

1. Lowering Blood Sugar

Exercise helps in the immediate reduction of high blood sugar levels by facilitating the uptake of glucose from the bloodstream into the organs and muscles. Post-meal walks, in particular, can be beneficial for individuals with higher-than-normal blood sugar levels.

2. Aiding in Weight Loss

Losing even 5-10% of the body weight can lead to significant improvements in HbA1C levels, which reflect average blood sugar levels over two to three months. While nutrition is a primary driver of weight loss, exercise too plays a crucial role by burning calories and preserving lean muscle mass, which is important for supporting metabolism and preventing muscle loss during a calorie deficit.

3. Building Muscle

Muscle mass plays an essential role in blood sugar management. After meals, a significant portion of glucose is directed toward the muscles for utilization. Maintaining adequate muscle mass is crucial for the efficient clearance of glucose from the bloodstream.

4. Reducing Visceral Fat

Visceral fat, commonly known as abdominal fat, is closely linked to insulin resistance and the development of type 2 diabetes. These fat cells can produce a variety of hormones and chemicals that make it harder for your body to utilize insulin, thereby worsening insulin resistance. Research shows that exercise, particularly resistance training, can effectively reduce visceral fat, improve insulin sensitivity and mitigate insulin resistance.

Also read:  5 Best Exercises To Maintain Diabetes

How Does Exercise Help Prevent Diabetes Complications?

Exercise offers numerous benefits beyond managing insulin and blood sugar levels. It plays a crucial role in slowing down, stopping, and even reversing the long-term effects associated with the progression of type 2 diabetes. The following are some of the primary ways that exercise helps combat diabetes-related complications:

1. Reducing Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is a key driver of type 2 diabetes progression and its related complications, such as atherosclerosis, joint deterioration, and cognitive decline. Regular exercise helps lower inflammation levels, mitigating its harmful effects and promoting overall well-being.

2. Boosting Vascular Health

Exercise triggers the release of myokines from the muscles, which improves circulatory and vascular health. Enhanced blood flow ensures that vital oxygen and nutrients reach their intended destinations, lowering the risk of developing diabetes-related neuropathy, heart issues, and vision loss. Better blood circulation can also contribute to improved joint health.

3. Improving Blood Pressure and Cholesterol

Exercise not only strengthens heart health by enhancing blood flow and reducing inflammation but also helps regulate cholesterol levels and blood pressure. High blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels are major contributors to progressive heart disease, which is a common complication of diabetes.

4. Promoting Joint Health

Diabetes can lead to joint pain and mobility problems, such as a frozen shoulder. While the exact cause is not always clear, arterial disease, excess body weight, and nerve damage may play a role. Regular exercise, including both mobility and strength exercises, helps combat these factors and promote joint health by enhancing the range of motion.

5. Improving Nerve Function

Studies have shown that exercise can significantly reduce diabetes-related neuropathy and pain, with improvements observed in nerve health and function.

How Much Exercise is Good for Diabetes?

To achieve the recommended level of physical activity, aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week. One effective approach is to incorporate 20 to 25 minutes of physical activity into your daily routine. Additionally, include activities that engage all major muscle groups (hips, legs, back, chest, shoulders, abdomen, and arms) on two or more days every week. 

Here are some examples of moderate-intensity exercises you can try:

  • Brisk walking 
  • Doing household chores
  • Dancing
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Swimming
  • Playing sports
  • Bicycling

These activities target large muscle groups, elevate your heart rate, and increase your breathing rate, all of which are important for improving fitness. Stretching exercises can enhance flexibility and help prevent post-activity soreness. The blood glucose-reduction effects of physical activity can last for approximately 24 hours after a workout.

There is a strong connection between sedentary behaviour and poor blood sugar control in individuals at risk of type 2 diabetes. However, even light walking or engaging in 3 minutes of exercise every half an hour can help improve blood sugar levels for such individuals.

When is the Best Time to Exercise for Diabetics?

The best time to exercise is one to three hours after a meal. This is when your blood sugar level is usually elevated. 

  • If you are prescribed insulin, then it's crucial to check your blood sugar level before exercising. If it measures below 100 mg/dL, then consuming a piece of fruit or a small snack can raise it and help prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Rechecking your blood sugar 30 minutes later will indicate whether it has stabilized. 
  • It's also recommended to monitor your blood sugar after intense workouts or activities. If you take insulin, then be aware that the risk of hypoglycemia may be at its highest 6 to 12 hours after a workout. 
  • Additionally, it's important to avoid exercising if the blood sugar level is too high (over 250 mg/dL), as it can potentially elevate blood sugar levels even further.

Best Exercises for Diabetics

While all forms of exercise are beneficial in managing diabetes by aiding in weight loss and boosting insulin sensitivity, certain types offer additional advantages. These include:

1. Aerobic Exercise

Regular aerobic training has been shown to lower blood pressure, improve A1C test results, and reduce triglyceride levels. Studies have also found a connection between moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise, which significantly lowers cardiovascular risks.

2. Resistance Exercise

Diabetes is associated with decreased muscle strength. Resistance training helps in countering this effect by increasing muscle strength and mass, leading to improved overall muscle function.

3. Other Forms of Exercise

Older adults suffering from diabetes often experience limitations in flexibility and balance. They can practise the following:

  • Stretching exercises can enhance flexibility and boost the range of motion. 
  • Balance training, on the other hand, can improve gait and reduce the risk of falls. 
  • Tai chi, in particular, has been shown to improve balance and alleviate symptoms affecting the nervous system in individuals with diabetes.

Which is the Best Exercise for Diabetics?

The ideal type of physical activity for individuals with diabetes varies from person to person, depending on their preferences and physical abilities. It is recommended to engage in a combination of different activities to reap the maximum benefits. Each type of activity offers unique advantages and targets other areas of the body. For instance:

  • Swimming is an activity that increases heart rate and requires deep breathing, making it beneficial for cardiovascular health. This is particularly important for individuals with diabetes, as they are at a higher risk of complications such as heart disease. 
  • Activities like gardening and digging can improve strength and enhance the body's insulin utilisation.

Also read:  The best exercises for controlling blood sugar levels


Before starting any exercise programme, it is important to consult with your endocrinologist. They can provide guidance and ensure that the chosen form of exercise is appropriate for you. Alongside exercise, adopting other healthy lifestyle practices can also be beneficial. Maintaining a nutritious diet, quitting smoking, managing body weight, and implementing stress-reduction strategies are all important aspects of diabetes management.

You can also keep a check on your blood glucose levels with,         

Apollo Diabetes Check Package


Q. Which type of diabetics can benefit from regular exercise?

While all diabetics can benefit from exercise, it is particularly advantageous for improving blood glucose control in individuals with type 2 diabetes.

Q. How does exercise impact blood sugar?

During exercise, your body utilizes stored sugar from your muscles and liver. As you recover from your workout, your body replenishes these stores by taking sugar from your bloodstream. The intensity of your exercise can affect how long your blood sugar remains impacted. It's important to note that low blood sugar levels can occur even several hours after completing a strenuous workout, typically within the range of four to eight hours. 

Q. Do all types of exercise improve blood sugar?

Most types of cardiovascular and aerobic exercises can lower glucose levels, whereas activities like weightlifting and high-intensity training can increase it.

Q. What happens to insulin levels during exercise?

While exercising, the body experiences a reduction in plasma insulin. This is caused by the inhibition of the release of insulin by the pancreas and an increase in sympathetic activity. 

Q. Can daily exercise cure diabetes?

Diabetes is not curable. However, exercising every day can help diabetics manage their blood sugar levels and prevent complications.


 Medically reviewed by Dr Sonia Bhatt.

Diabetes Management

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