Exercise for Diabetics

National Diabetes Month: When is the best time to exercise?

This post is dedicated to my mother, who is prediabetic.


Last night, I talked to my mom and asked if she and Kirt (my stepdad) wanted to go on a bike ride in the morning. They just got new bikes, so she accepted quickly and we planned to meet around 9 AM. At 10:45 my mom shows up. I was frustrated when she arrived because I had been expecting them about two hours earlier. She’s always late. I should have known she’d be late – she likes to reject the morning time.

Since I was crabby after waiting for two extra hours to go on this scheduled bike ride, she made an effort to get on  my good side again. Surprisingly, it worked.

She said, “You want to know WHY we were late?”

“Why, Mama?” (rolling my eyes – crabby face)

“BECAUSE, I had to make sure we ate a really good breakfast before we went on our bike ride. I got my 45 grams of carbohydrate this morning!” (proud face)

I was so proud of her. I wanted to be mad, but how could I? I’ve been trying to get her to follow a consistent carbohydrate diet for over a year now, and she’s finally trying to do it. Not only that, she showed me she has been listening because she was trying to make sure the exercise would LOWER her blood sugar instead of RAISE it. That’s something not a lot of prediabetics know.

Exercise can either lower or raise your blood sugar – depending on how long it’s been since you last ate. It seems counter-intuitive, but it’s true.

I’ll make it simple. Let’s start by reviewing some basics…

Quick Facts

  1. Diabetics have difficulty regulating their blood sugar (glucose).
  2. There are two main ways that sugar can be released into the blood stream.
  3. Fasting State: Hepatic (liver) glucose is produced to keep the brain working correctly when food is unavailable.
  4. Post Meal State: Blood glucose rises as the carbohydrate in your food is broken down into glucose and released into the blood stream.
  5. Exercise requires glucose.


During exercise, your body will use up sugar from meal release or it will produce hepatic glucose if meal sugar is unavailable. Stated simply, if you exercise BEFORE you eat, your blood sugar will go UP. If you exercise AFTER you eat, your blood sugar will go DOWN.

For the best blood sugar control, diabetics should try to exercise 30 minutes to one hour following a meal. This is the time that sugar will be entering the blood stream and exercise can help “put it away.” During exercise, the muscle cells become starved for glucose and snatch it up from the blood stream to breakdown for energy.

I’ve told my mom this time and time again – I’m glad to know that something has been retained. :) Go Mom!

A Note to the Diabetics: Do you want to know how much exercise is necessary to fix a high blood sugar? Try checking your sensitivity to exercise. Test before and directly after to see how much that type and amount of exercise lowers your blood sugar. If 20 minutes of walking drops you 50 points, you can use that information for future reference. 

4 thoughts on “Exercise for Diabetics

  1. Sigh….now how can I get my diabetic daddy to start including some physical activity into his daily routine?! I’ve tried the nice route…the mean route. It’s just not happening. He used to be real good about getting in 30-45 mins of walking every night after dinner while reading the paper. Now he just lays on the couch because he’s “tired” all the time.

    • Well… I don’t know for sure.

      Here’s an (unconventional) idea… have him set an exercise goal that he thinks is appropriate and then take his money. Tell him you’re going to rip it up if he doesn’t hit his goal. (I would tell you to tell him you’d spend it, but I think he might be used to you spending his money… so that won’t work) If he makes you rip it up, he has to replace it. Re-evaluate his goals every month or so.

      Most people hate to see money destroyed. Out of spite, he might start hitting his goals.

      It’s a real shame when people (I’m one of these people) have to be motivated this way… but whatever works. ;)

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