Safety first

Diabetes and exercise

Exercising safely with diabetes

Exercise is important but before you start, make sure you assess safety first by considering the following:  

Where do you start? 

See your GP for exercise clearanceespecially if your BGLs are consistently out of your target range or you have had diabetes for more than 10 years. Consider seeking advice from an Accredited Exercise Physiologist for an exercise program tailored to your individual needs.  

How are your feet? 

You can get advice from your podiatrist or GP to choose appropriate footwear. It is a good idea to check your feet before and after exercise for any changes or problems.  

What about changes in BGLs? 

Plan to do your physical activity at regular times on set days to reduce the chance of hypoglycaemia. Plan what exercise you’ll do, how often, for how long and at what intensity. Talk to your diabetes educator particularly if you’re balancing medication. Read more about BGLs and exercise.

And don’t forget about the essentials

If you wear medical alert identification, such as a bracelet or chain, ensure you have this on. Apply sunscreen and protect your head and body against the sun. Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercising to avoid dehydration. 

Before an exercise session

Ask yourself: 

  • Am I feeling well? It is not recommended that you exercise when you are feeling unwell. Take time out to rest and start exercising again when you are feeling better. 
  • Have I checked my BGL? When you are starting a new exercise routine or changing your current routine, it is important to check your BGLs more regularly. For people who require blood glucose lowering medication or insulin you must check your BGLs before, during and after exercise to avoid hypoglycemia. 

During an exercise session

  • Check your BGLs every 20-30 minutes if the intensity, type or duration is new to you, or you experience symptoms of hypoglycaemia or hyperglycaemia. 

After an exercise session

  • Check your BGL and monitor it for up to 24 hours. 
  • Have a carbohydrate snack or meal, if required. 
  • Be aware of overnight hypoglycaemia. Have a low GI snack before bed if you think your BGLs might drop during the night. 
  • If you require blood glucose lowering medication or insulin you may need to adjust your dose as your BGL reduces as a result of the exercise. This is particularly important if you are exercising at a high intensity or for longer than 30 minutes at a time. Speak to your health care team before making any changes to your medication dose. 

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