Walking and diabetes

Moderate physical activity is extremely good for people with diabetes. Combined with healthy eating and any insulin or diabetes medication you might be taking, it can help you manage your diabetes and prevent long-term diabetes complications. It also helps to control blood sugar levels and body weight, and to overcome tiredness.

A physically active lifestyle can help prevent the onset of Type 2 (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes, slow its progress and help control it.

Walking is an excellent way of building physical activity into your life. You can start off with easy walks and build up slowly, find out more about getting started, how we can help, and the many health benefits of walking.

You should take the following special precautions:

  • Consult your doctor or diabetes team before beginning a new programme of exercise.
  • Plan your sugar intake and insulin injections carefully around your walk. As walking uses up glucose, you may find you need less insulin.
  • Avoid injecting in your legs just before a walk: exercising the leg muscles may cause the insulin to be absorbed too quickly.
  • Check your blood sugar level 15 minutes before walking and 1 hour after you finish. If there is a great difference, consult your doctor before taking a longer walk. If your blood sugar level is unusually high before walking, don’t exercise until it has returned to normal.
  • Carry glucose with you.
  • If you are prone to frequent hypos (hypoglycaemic episodes) without warning, go walking with a friend who knows what to do if a hypo occurs.
  • Delayed hypos (up to 36 hours) can occur as the muscles refuel after activity. If you exercise intensely you may need to make meal adjustments to avoid this.
  • Take special care to look after your feet.

For more information on diabetes and keeping active, see the Diabetes UK website