Young or old, male or female, diabetes or not, exercising regularly is one of the best things anyone can do for their health.
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), exercise can help control blood glucose (sugar) and improve your body's response to insulin. It can also help you manage diabetes-related health conditions, such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
And there's more: Exercise can relieve stress, help you sleep better and build the strength, flexibility and endurance you need to perform daily activities.
Physical activity can provide great benefits for people with diabetes at any age. And the earlier you start, the longer you can enjoy the benefits.
What types of exercise can you do?
For the most part, having diabetes doesn't mean you need to restrict your activities.
Almost any kind of exercise—from gardening to running marathons—is appropriate if you don't have a health condition that rules it out.
Talking to your doctor before you start an exercise program can help you identify any potential problems.
If you have eye trouble, for example, you may need to avoid lifting heavy weights. Studies have shown that lifting weights can increase pressure around the eyeball, possibly raising your risk of glaucoma, which is already higher in people with diabetes than in others. And if nerve damage has made your feet numb, swimming may be better than walking.
You should also talk to your doctor before taking on an exercise program if you are pregnant, aren't used to exercising or have a chronic health problem, such as heart disease.
Whatever you do, be safe
Even after your doctor clears you for activity, you'll still need to follow some precautions every time you exercise.
Physical activity can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in people who take insulin and some—but not all—diabetes medicines. At its worst, hypoglycemia can cause you to pass out or have a seizure. The danger is present while you exercise and for up to a day later.
Exercise can also cause blood sugar that is too high (hyperglycemia) to go even higher. This can cause blurry vision, fatigue, weakness and, in the worst cases, diabetic coma.
For safety's sake, follow these recommendations to make sure your blood sugar is controlled when you exercise: