The Benefits of Physical Activity

Being physically active helps prevent long-term diabetes complications.

Whether you are diabetic or not, physical activity plays an essential role in keeping you heathy and preventing illnesses. Its many benefits include:

  • feeling more relaxed and physically fit;
  • better weight control;
  • a reduced risk of osteoporosis and arthritis;
  • a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (lower blood pressure in the short and medium term, lower cholesterol and triglycerides levels in the blood);
  • stress reduction and greater self-esteem;
  • more energy and feeling of well-being;
  • greater self-confidence and a better quality of life.

Physical activity and diabetes

Physical activity increases the effectiveness of insulin  by increasing the sensitivity of the body’s tissues to its action. This effect persists for several hours after exercise. Furthermore, the muscles that worked during exercise burn glucose (sugar) , which lowers the level in the blood.

Being physically active helps prevent long-term diabetes complications. People with prediabetes can delay the onset of diabetes.

If you have type 1 diabetes:

According to the studies, exercise does not have a beneficial effect on blood glucose (sugar) control for people with type 1, but does confer all the other benefits described above. However, a few recent studies have shown glycated hemoglobin (A1C) reductions after increasing physical activity in children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes.

For most type 1 diabetics, being sedentary is much worse for their health than being physically active.

If you have type 2 diabetes:

For people with type 2 diabetes, exercise generally helps control their blood glucose (sugar) levels, in addition to the other benefits mentioned above.

Some type 2 diabetics can even bring their blood glucose (sugar) levels within target values through exercise and avoid medication entirely, or reduce the dose needed.

Physical activity is an integral part of diabetes treatment, in the same way as a balanced diet and medication.

Research and text: Diabetes Québec Team of Health Care Professionals

Scientific review: Cathy Dresdell, M.Sc. Kinesiologist

June 2014 (updated on July 2018)

©All rights reserved Diabetes Quebec

References:

Unité de médecine de jour métabolique de l’Hôtel-Dieu du CHUM. (2013) Connaître son diabète pour mieux vivre, Montréal: Les Éditions Rogers limitée. Available in English in the store.

Sigal R, Armstrong M, Bacon S et al. Diabetes Canada 2018 Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Diabetes in Canada: Physical Activity and Diabetes. Can J Diabetes 2018; 42 (Suppl 1): S54-S63.

Wherrett D, Ho J, Huot C et al. Diabetes Canada 2018 Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Diabetes in Canada: Type 1 Diabetes in Children and Adolescents. Can J Diabetes 2018; 42 (Suppl 1): S234-S246.