Diabetes and Exercise

TOUCH Diabetes Support

Diabetes and Exercise

According to the Ministry of Health, the prevalence of diabetes among Singapore residents has increased over the decade due our ageing population as the risk of diabetes increases with age. Knowledge on diabetes care is importance as poorly managed diabetes can eventually lead to disabilities and diseases, and compromise the quality of life of individuals and their caregivers. Keeping to a healthy diet is crucial to diabetes management. What’s equally important is keeping fit through an active lifestyle.

Research has shown that physical activity helps cells to use glucose more effectively by reducing insulin resistance, which in turn keeps blood glucose levels in the healthy range. In fact, the American Diabetes Association noted that physical activity can lower blood glucose for more than 24 hours after exercise by making the body more sensitive to insulin.

According to TOUCH Diabetes Support, keeping the blood glucose levels in the healthy range is important as it can deter long-term complications such as heart problems, eye, nerve and kidney damage, and limb amputations.

If you don’t have an exercise regime, start slow and build up your routine at a steady pace. Take heart in the knowledge that a few minutes of walking or even cycling a day can benefit you too.

Here’s how you can get started!


  1. Begin by talking to your doctor or diabetes care therapist to find out what exercise would be suitable for your current condition.

  2. Set realistic goals and pick an activity you are confident in doing – it may be as simple as a walk in the park! You can increase the frequency and intensity of your physical activity later when you feel comfortable. Here’s an example of a one-month exercise routine:

    Week 1: Take a leisurely stroll three times a week for 20 minutes

    Week 2: Increase the intensity by walking three times a week for 20 minutes

    Week 3: Increase the duration by walking three times a week for 30 minutes

    Week 4: Increase the intensity by brisk walking three times a week for 30 minutes  

  3. Consider the different types of exercises:
    • Aerobic exercises: also called cardiovascular or endurance exercises. These include walking, jogging, swimming, dancing and ball games. This would help you most in keeping your blood glucose level in a healthy range.
    • Flexibility exercises: these include stretching, which help to loosen muscles and joints. Do these exercises slowly, holding each stretch for a few seconds.
    • Strengthening exercises: also known as resistance training, these make your muscles stronger by working them harder. Lifting weights or doing push-ups are examples of strengthening exercises. Muscle contraction during resistance training helps to increase the ability of muscles to transport glucose from the bloodstream.

      TOUCH Diabetes Support recommends a combination of aerobic and strengthening exercises for an all-rounded workout.
  4. If you have trouble walking, you may consider swimming, aqua-aerobics, swimming or lifting weights while sitting.

  5. Aim to engage in physical activity at least thrice a week for a total of 150 minutes.


As you embark on your new exercise routine, do take note of the following precautions:

  1. Check in with your doctor or diabetes care therapist if you are considering including any vigorous exercises to your routine, especially if you have any underlying heart conditions.

  2. If your feet are numb or can’t see clearly, consult your doctor or therapist before starting your exercise routine.

  3. Check your blood glucose level before you exercise and take note of the following guidelines:
    • 5.6-13.9mmol/L (100-250mg/L): It is safe to embark on exercise
    • Less than 5.6mmol/L (100mg/L): Take a small low-fat snack, such as a slice of bread, before exercise
    • Above 22mmol/L (370mg/L): Do not exercise now. Drink more water
  4. Check your blood glucose level every 30-60 minutes during exercise. Always have a snack on hand while exercising in case of hypoglycaemia or low blood glucose level.

  5. If you have an active proliferative retinopathy, you MUST avoid strenuous exercise and any activity that dramatically increases blood pressure. Exercises such as walking, swimming, stationary cycling and low impact aerobics would be suitable.

TOUCH Diabetes Support aims to build a community of care and support for people living with diabetes. Since 1992, TDS has been delivering impact into the lives of people with diabetes by empowering them to achieve good control of their sugar levels through lifestyle changes and regular health checks.

For more information on TOUCH Diabetes Support, please click here.