Talk to Your Doctor About Your Exercise Plan

A patient and doctor sit next to one another. The patient shows the doctor their smart phone. The doctor smiles while holding it.

Tell your doctor before you start to exercise. Low to moderate exercise is safe and can help you manage your diabetes.

Below is a list of health issues that need to be discussed with your doctor. You may need further testing if you answer “yes” to any of the statements below.

  • I have pain or discomfort in my chest, neck, upper back, jaw or arms.
  • I am short of breath at rest or with mild exercise.
  • I feel short of breath when I lie down and sitting up helps.
  • I feel tired or short of breath just doing normal things like taking out the garbage.
  • I am awake in the night feeling short of breath.
  • I feel dizzy or have fainted recently.
  • My ankles are swollen.
  • My heart skips beats or races.
  • I have a heart problem.
  • I take one or more medicines for my heart.
  • I have pain in one or both of my lower legs when I walk.
  • I have a heart murmur.
  • I want to do intense exercise such as jogging, weight training, hockey or soccer.

How Can I Schedule Exercise?

Part of getting started with an exercise program is planning when you will fit it in. Follow the tips below to help you make exercise part of your regular routine:

  • Look at your week ahead to find time to do exercise.
  • Schedule times you could set aside to do exercise. Start with a 10 minute block.
  • Every few weeks add 5 to 10 minutes to your exercise time.
  • Increase the amount of time you do exercise to 30 to 60 minutes total most days of the week.

It might be hard to find large amounts of time in your schedule. It may help to do 10 minutes of exercise at a time, three or more times through the day.

What Happens to My Blood Sugar When I Exercise?

Safety Alert

If you are prescribed insulin or a medicine from the Secretagogue class of medicines you are at risk for low blood sugar.

Always have a fast-acting carbohydrate with you [such as sugar (glucose) tablets, juice, or pop] and take this if your blood sugar is low.

Doing exercise is a great way to lower your blood sugar and manage diabetes. To learn how your blood sugar changes with exercise, record your blood sugar before and after exercise for the first five sessions. Notice your blood sugar patterns and be able to plan ahead in case of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) happens when your blood sugar is less than 4 mmol/L or you have the signs of low blood sugar (such as feeling shaky, easy to bother or difficulty concentrating).

Your blood sugar can become too low if you combine exercise with certain diabetes medicines. Talk to your doctor before you start doing exercise and always have a fast-acting carbohydrate with you.

Find out more about exercise and low blood sugar »

What Exercise Should I Start With?

A person walks along a paved path. They wear a yellow shirt and black leggings. Green bushes and trees line either side of the path.

Start with an exercise you enjoy and that fits into your lifestyle. There are many types of exercise you can do, including:

  • aerobic exercise (such as walking or biking)
  • resistance training (such as lifting dumbbells or free weights)
  • sports (such as rowing, nordic skiing, or swimming)

Each exercise is good for your body in different ways. Do different types of exercise to create a well-rounded exercise program.

Getting Started

Follow these tips to start your exercise program safely:

  • Ask your family doctor if you need further testing before you start an exercise program.
  • Check your blood sugar before and after you exercise.
  • Start with 10 minutes of exercise each day. Add 5 to 10 minutes every few weeks.
  • Choose exercise that you enjoy and that fits into your lifestyle.