[Originally published: Sept. 08, 2022. Updated: Oct. 30, 2023.]
Most adults know they should exercise—ideally about 30 minutes a day, five days a week—but it’s especially important for people with diabetes.
“Overall, exercise is incredibly beneficial for blood sugar control,” says Janelle Duah, MD, a Yale Medicine primary care physician. Sticking to an exercise program for even just eight weeks can lower blood sugar levels to points that are on par with diabetes medications, studies show.
And blood sugar control is important for people with diabetes, a common condition in which our bodies either fail to produce insulin or do not use it properly. Insulin is a hormone that helps the cells in our bodies absorb the glucose (sugar) in our blood, which we use for energy.
Over time, uncontrolled diabetes can lead to a host of serious health issues, so it’s important for those with diabetes to keep their blood sugar levels in a healthy range—meaning it’s neither too low nor too high. And exercise is a good way to accomplish that goal.
In addition to moderate-to-high intensity cardiovascular exercise that elevates the heart rate significantly (such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming, and cycling), resistance training (such as body weight exercises, free weights, and gym machines) is also crucial, she adds.
“The more muscle you have, the better your blood sugar control, as the muscles are able to take that sugar up from the blood and use it to create energy,” Dr. Duah says.
In this video, Yale Medicine experts discuss the benefits of exercise for those with diabetes.