Don't Let Diabetes Hold You Back from Exercising!


Don't Let Diabetes Hold You Back from Exercising!

By Bonnie Goldberg, MA, RD, CDE

Exercise is an important activity that everyone should participate in, not just people with diabetes. Exercise has been proven to have beneficial effects on all systems in the body, such as:

  • Lower risk of heart disease
  • Help maintain a healthy weight
  • Strengthen muscles, bones, and ligaments
  • Increase flexibility and coordination
  • Improve mental functioning
  • Improve emotional wellbeing

However, sometimes diabetes can make it seem difficult or impossible to incorporate regular exercise into your daily routine. Sometimes a brisk walk around the neighborhood can cause blood sugar to drop unexpectedly, and other times the same exercise can cause blood sugar to skyrocket. This inconsistency can be frustrating and lead people to give up altogether.

But you don’t have to. Exercise might be a little more challenging for people with diabetes, but it’s also a little more important for your health. In addition, technology like MiniMed continuous glucose monitoring systems (CGM) provides real-time glucose readings to help you stay in range. By learning what your body does during exercise and being prepared, you can discover physical activities that you enjoy, are convenient and accessible and, most importantly, keep you healthy and safe.

How does exercise affect my blood sugar?

When you exercise, several hormones that affect blood sugar flood the bloodstream. Increased blood flow to muscles increases uptake of glucose, which can lead to hypoglycemia. In addition, other hormones are released that can increase the amount of sugar in the blood, which may lead to hyperglycemia. Confusing, right? To add to these conditions, sometimes blood sugars can drop hours after exercise, leading to a condition called delayed onset hypoglycemia.  

So what can you do? For one thing, don’t let this keep you from physical activity! It’s important to recognize what’s going on with your body, know what to expect, and be prepared. This is where knowing your sugar readings at all times with a CGM can help you keep from going too high or too low. Here are some additional tips that can help you get the exercise you need:

  • Plan! If you know that you are going to exercise at a certain time, you can plan your dosing regimen around your activity. For example, are you going to go for a walk after dinner? Make sure you’ve eaten enough carbs at dinner to cover your insulin dose, or bring glucose tablets with you to ensure that you don’t go low.
  • Start slow. You don’t have to leap right into marathon training. Start with an activity you enjoy and is accessible for you, like walking around the neighborhood, riding a bike, or going for a short jog.
  • Make it fun! Walk your dog, go for a swim, listen to a great audiobook while biking around a park. Pair your exercise with an activity you enjoy, and you’ll be more likely to stick with it.
  • Reward yourself. Find small ways to pat yourself on the back for sticking to your exercise plan. Buy yourself a new book, or treat yourself to a new lipstick. You deserve a reward for treating yourself well.
  • Manage your medications. Keep your insulin and other medications with you along with glucose tablets or juice boxes. Being prepared can take the stress out of any unexpected blood sugar readings.

What’s most important is to engage in an activity that you enjoy and that you’ll stick with. You’ll be healthier, happier, and your diabetes control will improve. How could you go wrong?

Could an insulin pump system with built-in CGM help you feel safer while you exercise? Click here to see if you qualify for a free trial of a MiniMed pump system.  

Bonnie Goldberg, MA, RD, CDE, is a Registered Dietitian with a Masters Degree in Health Education from Columbia University. She specializes in diabetes care and has spent her career educating and empowering people with diabetes. She is proud to currently work for Medtronic.


– Medtronic Diabetes insulin infusion pumps, continuous glucose monitoring systems and associated components are limited to sale by or on the order of a physician and should only be used under the direction of a healthcare professional familiar with the risks associated with the use of these systems.

– Successful operation of the insulin infusion pumps and/or continuous glucose monitoring systems requires adequate vision and hearing to recognize alerts and alarms.

Medtronic Diabetes Insulin Infusion Pumps

– Insulin pump therapy is not recommended for individuals who are unable or unwilling to perform a minimum of four blood glucose tests per day.

– Insulin pumps use rapid-acting insulin. If your insulin delivery is interrupted for any reason, you must be prepared to replace the missed insulin immediately.

Medtronic Diabetes Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) Systems

– The information provided by CGM systems is intended to supplement, not replace, blood glucose information obtained using a home glucose meter. A confirmatory fingerstick is required prior to treatment.

– Insertion of a glucose sensor may cause bleeding or irritation at the insertion site. Consult a physician immediately if you experience significant pain or if you suspect that the site is infected.

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