The Longer-term Benefits of Exercise on Diabetes

diabetes exercise
  • There are clear benefits of exercise on diabetes.
  • There are three types of diabetes: type 1 which is chronic and incurable, type 2 which is impacted by lifestyle and gestational diabetes related to pregnancy.
  • All types of diabetes respond to exercise.
  • Exercise lowers the blood glucose levels and helps your body fight insulin resistance.
  • For pre-diabetics (those at risk of type 2) reducing insulin resistance is important.

What is insulin resistance and how is related to diabetes?

Insulin resistance is when cells in your muscles, fat, and liver don’t respond well to insulin and can’t use glucose from your blood for energy. To make up for it, your pancreas makes more insulin. Over time, your blood sugar levels go up.

Insulin resistance is a major feature of type 2 diabetes.

What health risks are there for diabetics that can be managed with exercise?

Losing weight through exercise and adapting a well-balanced diet, can improve the day-to-day quality of life for patients with diabetes. It can, however, also have a positive effect on a patient’s future health and reduce their risk of experiencing diabetes-related complications down the line.

Those with diabetes are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, through mechanisms not yet fully understood. Increased physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of adverse cardiac events in a number of studies. As a direct result of this, the American Diabetes Association and the Diabetes Prevention Program both advocate the use of exercise as a means of managing and preventing diabetes-induced heart disease.

How can exercise impact insulin resistance and diabetes?

Exercise has many benefits; it lowers blood glucose levels and increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin, meaning that it can be a very useful tool in the management of diabetes. It is also an effective means of losing weight and a natural mood enhancer and stress reliever; thereby improving quality of life in those with a long-term chronic condition, such as diabetes.

Taking part in regular physical activity improves the health of those with type 1 (T1DM). It can also be used to prevent, or at least delay, the development of type 2 (T2DM) in those who are considered to be high risk, including those with GDM. The use of exercise as part of the treatment approach for any form of diabetes is widely accepted and encouraged.

I am concerned about insulin resistance and my blood sugar. What can I do?

If if you are worried about your blood sugar levels and you are experiencing some unexplained weight gain, an easy at home blood test can indicate if you need to make changes to your nutrition and exercise. Nabta Health’s Hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c) Test is an affordable, quick and easy way to evaluate how well you have been maintaining your blood sugar levels, and to determine if any dietary changes are required. This might take support from the whole family. If you are concerned that you have become insulin resistant or that you are pre-diabetic, speak to your doctor.

Read more about I’ve Been Diagnosed with Diabetes. How can Exercise Help Improve my Condition?


Nabta is reshaping women’s healthcare. We support women with their personal health journeys, from everyday wellbeing to the uniquely female experiences of fertility, pregnancy, and menopause. You can track your menstrual cycle and get personalised support by using the Nabta app.

Get in touch if you have any questions about this article or any aspect of women’s health. We’re here for you. 

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