The Best Exercises for Diabetes

May 09, 2023
The Best Exercises for Diabetes
Effective diabetes control may begin with blood sugar monitoring, medication, and healthy eating, but successful long-term diabetes management also prioritizes physical activity. Here’s why (and how) you should exercise when you have diabetes.

Blood sugar monitoring, medication, and healthy eating may form the foundation of an effective diabetes treatment plan, but these strategies are just the beginning. 

At Direct Primary Care New Braunfels, our seasoned team of board-certified providers takes a comprehensive approach to chronic disease management and diabetes care that aims to help you live your best, healthiest life — both today and as you get older. 

Dr. Thomas Kay, Dr. Georgina Bustamante, and nurse practitioner Becky Spencer want you to know that when it comes to successful diabetes control, the benefits of daily exercise can’t be overstated. Here’s why, along with our top diabetes workout recommendations to help you get started today. 

Physical activity and diabetes management

Everyone who engages in regular exercise can expect certain beneficial health gains: Daily physical activity can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight, improve your strength and flexibility, increase your energy levels, elevate your mood, and help you sleep better at night. 

Physical activity also increases circulation and eases inflammation, two benefits that become all the more important when you have diabetes. Daily exercise helps control diabetes by:  

  • Improving insulin resistance (making your body more sensitive to insulin)
  • Lowering your blood sugar levels as working muscles absorb available glucose 
  • Reducing stress levels; uncontrolled stress can make blood sugar levels rise

Exercise also promotes healthy blood pressure and cholesterol numbers. This is especially important when you have diabetes, since chronically high blood sugar levels can damage your blood vessels and set the stage for hypertension and high cholesterol. Managing all these numbers — assisted by your daily workout — is one of the best ways to stay healthy and prevent diabetes-related complications. 

Our favorite exercise options for diabetes  

Once you get the go-ahead to start working out, set a goal to be active most days, aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise each week. The American Diabetes Association recommends that you miss no more than two days of exercise in a row.   

Exercise doesn’t have to be hard, and in fact, we recommend finding activities you enjoy — or even enlisting a workout buddy — so you’re more likely to stick with it. Our top choices are:


There’s nothing more straightforward than walking; just put on a pair of supportive shoes and head outdoors. Starting and improving at your own pace, you can meet your minimum activity target simply by taking a brisk 30-minute walk, five days a week.


Swimming (or taking water workout classes) gets your heart rate up, works your muscles gently through water resistance, and keeps pressure off your joints through buoyancy, all of which can be beneficial for people with diabetes. 


Cycling is another activity that gets your heart rate up while minimizing strain on your hips, knees, ankles, and feet. This can be helpful if you’re overweight, you have arthritis, or you’re experiencing any lower extremity pain due to diabetes-related nerve damage. 


Whether you dance around your house, take aerobic dance class at the gym, or take formal lessons at a local dance studio, dancing can be a fun and exciting way to get active, lose weight, reduce stress, and improve your blood sugar levels. Learning new choreography has the added benefit of boosting cognitive function.     

Team sports

When you’re ready to improve your baseline fitness level and mix things up a bit, team sports may be the way to go. Whether you join the local recreational frisbee or softball team or find a partner for weekly tennis or pickleball matches, the social aspect can boost your motivation.

Resistance bands

When it comes to controlling diabetes, a workout plan that includes both strength training and aerobic exercise is more beneficial than doing either one alone. So grab some resistance bands — or just use your own body weight — and learn a few muscle-building moves.  

Tai chi 

Often described as “meditation in motion,” this gentle form of exercise can help you maintain strength, flexibility, and balance through every stage of life. In addition to boosting your energy and easing your stress levels, research shows that this low-impact, slow-motion practice can lead to significant blood sugar improvements. 


A regular yoga practice improves flexibility, builds lean muscle mass, lowers stress, and improves nerve function, all of which are beneficial when you have diabetes. If you’ve never tried yoga, look for a beginner’s class at your local yoga studio or gym.  

Need help with diabetes? Give us a call today

Are you looking for personalized exercise recommendations? Would you like to fine tune your diabetes management plan? Our expert team at Direct Primary Care New Braunfels can help. Call or click online to schedule a visit at our office in New Braunfels, Texas, today.