Blog - Diabetes Management

A Guide to Managing Blood Sugar During Exercise

Exercise is one of the most important things anyone can do for their body and health. Exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight, strengthen your bones and muscles, help you sleep better, can improve your mental health, and delaying the onset of around 40 chronic conditions (e.g., type 2 diabetes) among many other great benefits.1 2
There are also many benefits of exercise for people living with diabetes. When you are active, your body uses more energy (calories) which can help control blood sugar levels more easily. Exercise also helps your body use insulin more efficiently and plays an important role in your diabetes management over time. Consult with your diabetes consultant on how to best integrate exercises in your management plan ¹
In all cases, the best type of exercise for anyone is what you will actually do! There is no “right” way to exercise—you should find what works best for you. Always discuss any exercise plan with your healthcare provider team to find what might be best for you and your overall health. Some people like to work out at the gym or go for walks. Others prefer to play sports, such as basketball or football. Hiking, playing frisbee, and dancing are also great ways to be active that also can be fun. You can even do exercises at home, like stretching or yoga, to get your daily movement in.
No matter what type of exercise you choose, it’s a good idea to start slowly and make it a habit over time. This will help prevent injuries and ensure you have a good experience as you get started. If you’re thinking of trying a new exercise program, be sure to check with your healthcare professional before beginning. Don’t forget, even starting with 10 to 15 minutes per day of exercise can add up and help you manage your diabetes.

Benefits of exercise for people living with diabetes

Studies have shown that moderate to high levels of physical activity are associated with improved health. This is true for people living with and without diabetes.3
For people living with diabetes, the benefits of exercise are even greater.3 Exercise helps balance blood sugar and improve glycaemic control; it reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke, and can help with weight loss or weight management.3 According to the Diabetes UK, you should aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate to high level of activity spread out throughout the week, though smaller amounts still provide some health benefits.3 There are many ways to get aerobic or cardio physical activity, including walking, running, biking, swimming, or even raking leaves. It’s important to find something you enjoy so that you will be more likely to stick with it. Resistance activities, such as weightlifting, are also beneficial to diabetes management. Resistance training improves glycaemic control, decreases insulin resistance, and increases muscular strength in adults with type 2 diabetes.4
Before you engage in any high-intensity exercise, don't forget to discuss it with your doctor or healthcare professional. If you are new to exercise or have been inactive for a long time, it’s a good idea to start slowly and gradually increase your activity level with guidance from your healthcare professional.

Monitoring your glucose during exercise

People often wonder if exercise lowers blood sugar. Exercise has the power to lower blood sugar levels in the moment and HbA1C in the long run if done regularly.5 Prolonged aerobic exercise can increase insulin sensitivity for up to 48 hours and may require adjustments to insulin and carbohydrate intake to prevent hypoglycaemia. On the other hand, glucose levels can rise with brief intense exercise.3 The effect of physical activity may be different from person to person, which is why it’s important to monitor your blood sugar levels regularly. JDRF UK recommends that you check your blood sugar levels before and after exercise.5 This is especially critical if you’re not sure how your body will react to a particular type or intensity of exercise.
Monitoring your blood glucose during exercise can also help you understand the benefits of different activities. You can use your blood sugar results to see how your body responds to each exercise, adjust your diabetes medications as needed, and make any necessary dietary decisions. Remember to speak to your healthcare professional before making lifestyle changes.
Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) with devices such as the Dexcom CGM System can help you monitor your glucose levels in real-time while you’re active. You can simply glance at your compatible smart device* or receiver to see if you’re trending high or low while on the football pitch or during a pause in your dance class. This real-time and on-demand information can help you adjust your diabetes management plan as needed and make more informed treatment decisions.
Compatible digital Health Apps, like Apple Health and Google Fit, can also help you to stay on track while you’re on the go. They work by sending your Dexcom glucose data to the app so that you can better manage your health and fitness information, coaching you to live a more active life.

Be unstoppable

Living with diabetes doesn't mean you have to limit your activities. There are many athletes with diabetes out there who are living life to the fullest and setting an example for others. Athletes and Dexcom Warriors, like Gavin and Chris, prove that anything is possible.
  • Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a child, Gavin is now an avid endurance athlete. His favourite Dexcom CGM feature is the trend arrows so that he can monitor his glucose levels at a glance while going about his daily life, as well as when he’s competing in a race.
  • Football player, Chris, credits the Dexcom CGM System with giving him the best HbA1C ‘scores’ of his life. He can now make more actionable decisions about his diabetes, both on and off the pitch.
Of course, you don't have to be an elite athlete to feel unstoppable. Making small, positive choices for your health and well-being over time can add up to big changes and results. The next time you feel like diabetes is holding you back, remember that diabetes is only one part of who you are. The rest of you is strong, resilient, and capable of anything you set your mind to. With the right diabetes management strategies in place, nothing is stopping you from reaching your goals.

Read our latest Dexcom Warrior stories and get excited about getting active!

  • View our Dexcom Warrior Stories
* For a list of compatible devices, visit
Gavin and Chris are sponsored spokespeople for Dexcom.
1 Diabetes UK. Diabetes and Exercise. Diabetes UK website. Accessed 7 February 2023.
2 Ruegsegger GN, Booth FW. Health Benefits of Exercise. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine. 2018. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a029694
3 Sigal R, et al. Physical Activity and Diabetes. Canadian Journal of Diabetes. 2018;42(Supp 1):S54-S63.
4 Sports Nutrition and Type 2 Diabetes. (2022). Accessed 9 November 2022.
5 Exercise and Type 1 Diabetes. (2021). Accessed 9 November 2022.

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