Exercise & Blood Sugar

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Activities of daily life increase insulin sensitivity.

Some examples of activities that may decrease your blood sugar include shopping, cleaning, gardening, and walking.

Exercise is more than going to the gym or playing a sport. Most activity is exercise. Activities of daily life—from cleaning, to gardening or shopping – are all forms of exertion that increase insulin sensitivity and that can lower your blood sugar. Most activity will lower the blood sugar, but not always.

Exercises that decrease blood sugar

Here are examples of exercise that will decrease the blood sugar:

Daily life activities, like shopping, cleaning, gardening, walking and sexual intimacy, as well as obvious sports activities, such as swimming, jogging and tennis, will increase insulin sensitivity and lower insulin requirements. These activities may require reducing the dose of insulin releasing pills or insulin if you are treated with these types of diabetes medications, and may require consumption of extra carbohydrate to keep the blood glucose stable.

Exercises that may increase blood sugar

Here are examples of exercise that may increase the blood sugar:

There are also activities and exercise that may increase the blood sugar. This is because the activity may release glucose counter-regulatory hormones, such as epinephrine (adrenaline) that opposes the action of insulin and raises the blood sugar. A classic example of this is bench-pressing free weights. It’s difficult to generalize, though, since other anaerobic activities will still lower blood sugar. Consult your medical provider team for specific questions regarding your activity.

In another example, competitive activities will often raise the blood sugar. Someone about to run a race gets an epinephrine (adrenaline) surge that is part of the competitive drive, which may result in an elevated blood sugar during the race. In contrast, the blood sugar can drop during practice.

Note: While it is important to understand why the same activity may give opposite blood glucose responses, the effect of stress on the blood glucose is not predictable, and we usually do not recommend increasing the dose of insulin in anticipation of stressful situations.

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