Diabetes: Beginning an Exercise Plan

10 Ways to Get Started and Stay Motivated

Getting started and staying motivated to exercise with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes takes some determination, but we'll show you how to do it—and keep exercise fun. Once you get that momentum going, you'll feel better, have more energy, and reap tons of health benefits.

Read about the benefits people with diabetes get from regular exercise in our benefits of exercise article.

Experts say you should aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least 5 days a week.1 But it's important to incorporate strengthening and flexibility exercises as well.

However, as you'll read below, you don't have to get all of your exercise requirements done at once. In fact, it's perfectly okay to break up your workouts into smaller segments throughout the day.

For example, if you can't find the time to take a brisk walk for 30 minutes a day, split up your workout into smaller segments. You can take a 10-minute walk in the morning, walk 10 minutes at lunch, and then do a 10-minute walk after dinner. There aren't any rules, so do what works for you.

Below, we give you10 easy ideas to get started and stay on track with your exercise plan for diabetes.

  1. Be prepared. To help prevent hypoglycemia (low blood glucose levels), carry a light snack, such as almonds or glucose tablets, for immediate energy. Also bring some water along to ensure you stay hydrated throughout the workout.
  2. Create a schedule for yourself. At the beginning of each week, take 5 minutes to map out when you can reasonably fit in your workout sessions that week. Writing down your workouts on a calendar as you would a doctor's appointment makes you more accountable for them. Once you're done with your workout for the day, cross it off your list.
  3. Do something you enjoy. If the thought of exercise makes you wince, why not do something you truly love? If you have a passion for dancing or want to learn how to perfect your free throws, then get out there and do it. Exercise doesn't have to feel like a chore. You can burn calories, lose weight, manage your diabetes, and still have fun.
  4. Join a diabetes support group. Support groups give you the opportunity to interact and connect with people who have diabetes who are going through the same things as you.
  5. Reward yourself. A hot bath, a good book, or a massage are excellent ways to thank yourself for a job well done.
  6. Set small goals. Starting small makes your overall goals a little less overwhelming. For example, if your goal is to lose 30 pounds, break it down into 5-pound increments. Be patient with yourself—big changes don't just happen overnight.
  7. Start slow. Take exercise step by step—literally. For example, do some light walking for 15 minutes every day for a week. Once your body gets used to that level of activity, then gradually build up to a faster walking pace for longer periods of time.
  8. Talk to your doctor. Of course, before beginning any exercise program, you should get approval from your doctor. He or she can also recommend specific exercise plans that have been proven to work for people with diabetes.
  9. Track your progress. It's exciting to see results, but write down what you've accomplished. For example, log how many miles you walk or steps you take in a day. Wear a pedometer to help you do this.
  10. Try something new. Bored with walking on the treadmill? Get some fresh air, and try walking outside. Or perhaps you've always wanted to try Pilates? Now is a great time to start—check with your local gym to see when they offer Pilates classes or rent Pilates DVDs to do at home.

Once you get into the habit of exercising, it'll become as routine as brushing your teeth. Also, you'll be better able to stick with other healthy choices, such as eating well and getting enough sleep.

Beginning an exercise plan when you have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes is rewarding. Once you get started with exercise, it's easy to stay motivated.

Updated on: November 2, 2012