Help Control Type 2 Diabetes With Exercise

Do you feel like your blood sugar just won’t budge? You’ve been eating well and taking your medicine as directed. But you can’t seem to get your levels as low as your doctor wants.

You may be missing a crucial piece in your diabetes care plan: exercise.

How exercise may help diabetes

If you have type 2 diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or it can’t use the insulin it makes. Insulin helps the body move sugar to where it’s supposed to go — the cells — instead of lingering in the blood. Exercise may help your body respond better to insulin. So when you work out regularly, it may take less insulin to keep your blood sugar levels in the normal range.

Better blood sugar control doesn’t end when the treadmill stops. Your body reaps health benefits during your workout and for several hours after. Over time, exercise may even help people with type 2 diabetes reverse their resistance to insulin.

More health benefits

Being active has many perks beyond better blood sugar control. It may help lower the risk for diabetes complications, such as heart and kidney disease — and nerve and eye damage. And regular exercise may lead to:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Better cholesterol levels
  • Improved circulation
  • Weight loss (if you’re overweight)
  • Reduced stress
  • More energy
  • A stronger heart, muscles and bones

It may be dangerous to exercise if your blood sugar is too low or too high. So ask your doctor if you need to test your blood sugar before, during or after your workout — and what your levels should be.

Getting started

Thinking about stepping up your fitness routine? Talk with your doctor before significantly increasing your activity level. Ask about the amounts and types of activities that may be best for you.

And consider these tips:

  • Start slowly. Gradually increase the amount of time and intensity of your workouts. You might begin with 10 minutes at a time — and build from there.
  • Find an activity you enjoy. How about biking, dancing or hiking?
  • Wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes to reduce the risk of foot problems. And check your feet after each workout. If you notice any sores or blisters, let your doctor know.
  • Drink water before, during and after being active to help prevent dehydration.
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What to do next

Find more tips and tools to help you take charge of type 2 diabetes. Download Your Diabetes Toolkit at uhc.com/diabetes-toolkit.


The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be nor should be construed as medical or other advice. Talk to an appropriate health care professional to determine what may be right for you.

Last reviewed June 2017

© 2017 United HealthCare Services, Inc.