Preventing and Managing Diabetes with Physical Activity

January 17, 2018

In today’s age of convenience and technology, it’s become increasingly easier to remain inactive in our daily lives. Whether it’s binge watching your favorite TV series, sitting at a computer for hours at work, or being constantly glued to your smart device at home, the increase in technological advances over the past few decades has created a more sedentary lifestyle for the majority of today’s population. This sedentary behavior can put you at a higher risk for developing various health conditions, including diabetes.


Diabetes Mellitus is a group of metabolic diseases characterized by elevated blood glucose concentration (hyperglycemia) stemming from defects in the body’s ability to secrete or utilize insulin. In many cases, this can lead to increased weight gain and fat mass. The two main types of diabetes are Type 1 and Type 2, of which about 9.4% of Americans (about 30.3 million) were diagnosed in 2015. And the affected population is only growing, with 1.5 million new cases each year.


What’s one of the best ways to combat this disease? Get moving!


While controlling and managing diabetes is often done via insulin medication, perhaps one of the easiest and most inexpensive methods to combat the disease is diet and exercise. Movement is powerful medicine. At Athlete Training and Health, we understand that starting an exercise program can sometimes be intimidating, especially if you don’t have any experience in this area. But don’t be discouraged, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to improve or manage your health.



If you're looking to begin a new workout routine but you don't know where to start or what to do, stop by any of our three world-class Athlete Training and Health locations and visit with our team of experts to discuss the Forever Athlete adult fitness program.

If you have pre-diabetes or diabetes, especially Type 2, something as simple as breaking up long periods of prolonged sitting every 30 minutes with three minutes of light walking or body weight exercises can help improve glycemic control. So if your desk job has you seated for eight hours a day, set a timer to remind yourself to walk around every half hour. You could also take the stairs instead of the elevator, park in the back of the parking lot to walk a little further to your destination, or walking your dog more frequently. That’s just a start though, it should complement a structured exercise program and healthy diet. There are three main types of exercise that should be included in your workout regimen: aerobic, resistance training, and flexibility training, all of which are integrated into our Forever Athlete adult programs at ATH.


When most people think of aerobic exercise, they think of cardio activities that involve long duration continuous movement at a moderate intensity, such as walking, jogging, cycling, climbing stairs, or participating in recreational sports. Some of the key benefits of this type of exercise for an individual with diabetes are increased insulin sensitivity, immune function, and cardiac output, while decreasing insulin resistance, blood pressure, and cardiovascular mortality risks.


Another mode of aerobic exercise is high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which consists of shorter bouts of, as the name implies, high intensity exercise with short well-planned breaks. Doing a mixture of both moderate and HIIT exercises is a good way to build a balanced aerobic conditioning level while preventing boredom from repeating the same exercises all the time.


The recommended prescription for aerobic exercises are bouts that last at least 10 minutes with the goal of at least 30 minutes a day. These exercises should be done most days of the week starting with moderate intensities and working your way up to at least 150 minutes per week of moderate to high intensity. If you are doing more HIIT routines, the time per week may be a little less than 150 minutes due to the higher intensity of the exercises.


Resistance training or strength training are exercises done with free weights, machines, bands, or body weight. These types of exercises are great for individuals with diabetes because our muscles use glucose for energy during strength training, which can improve glycemic control. Resistance training also improves insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, physical function and cardiovascular health.



Exercise is strong medication, capable of making dramatic changes to your health, function and appearance. Our small-group Forever Athlete classes provide customized programs designed for you - lead by our coaches who are with you every step of the way.


Strength training should be done two to three times per week, and if you’re just starting out you should use body weight or lighter weight and perform more reps. HIIT can also be performed with resistance training by doing one or multiple exercises with little or no breaks between them. HIIT has great cardiovascular benefits and should be included in at least one of your workouts throughout the week.


If you’re looking to begin a new workout routine but you don’t know where to start or what to do, stop by any of our three world-class Athlete Training and Health locations and visit with our team of experts to discuss the Forever Athlete adult fitness program. Not only do the group classes incorporate all of the necessary tools to help you stay healthy and fit, but they’re fun, motivating and offered at convenient times throughout the day to fit your busy schedule.


Anyone with special health considerations should consult their doctor before performing a structured exercise program. Individuals with diabetes should also monitor their blood glucose levels before and for several hours after workouts, especially when starting a new program. Everyone is different and not one program is right for all people, so find something you enjoy doing, be consistent, and the results will speak for themselves as you enjoy a happy and healthy lifestyle.

To get started in a Forever Athlete program, you can visit any of our Athlete Training and Health locations or visit any of the Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institutes and work with a dedicated team of performance coaches.

ATH North Houston: 832.698.9821
ATH South Houston: 713.909.0085
Sugar Land: 281.725.5895
Shepherd Square: 713.526.6143
Memorial City: 713.242.2270

This article was written by Blaine Schmidt. Blaine is an Athlete Training and Health performance coach who works within the Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute at the Sugar Land location. 



Physical Activity/Exercise and Diabetes: A Position Statement of the American Diabetes Association. Colberg et. al,  Diabetes Care, 2016 Nov; 39(11) 2065-2079.

ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, 9th edition.

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