How Can Exercise Lower Your Blood Sugar Levels?

May 11, 2023

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Written by Xavier Toledo, BSc

It is widely known that regular exercise helps with blood sugar control—but what is the reason behind this? In this blog, we'll explain this simply. Additionally, we'll provide some practical exercises (with demonstrations) to assist you in reducing your blood sugar levels.


Why is exercise so good for lowering blood sugar levels?

Exercise can help lower blood sugar levels by increasing the amount of glucose the muscles use for energy. Exercise triggers GLUT-4 transporters, which are vital in transporting glucose from the bloodstream to muscle cells. Consequently, when you work out, particularly during strength training, your muscles become "glucose sponges," absorbing glucose from your blood. This can enhance insulin sensitivity, minimize medication requirements, and lower the risk of complications related to elevated blood sugar levels.

For an in-depth exploration of exercise's impact on GLUT-4 transporters, we recommend reading our blog post, "The Incredible Benefits of Exercise for Type 2 Diabetes."


What is the best time of day to exercise to lower blood glucose levels?

The best time of day to exercise to lower blood glucose levels may vary depending on individual factors, such as medication regime and meal timing. However, research suggests that exercising after a meal may be more effective in lowering blood glucose levels compared to exercising before a meal or in a fasting state.

When you eat, your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, which is then released into your bloodstream. Exercise helps move glucose from your bloodstream into your muscles, where it can be used for energy. Exercising after a meal, particularly a carbohydrate-rich meal, can help increase insulin sensitivity, making it easier for your muscles to take up glucose from your bloodstream.

A 2017 randomized crossover study perfectly illustrated the distinct effects of exercising before and after meals for those with type 2 diabetes.[1] Participants were divided into two groups. The first group exercised for 45 minutes before breakfast, while the second group exercised for 15 minutes following each meal. After 60 days, the groups switched routines, allowing every participant to experience both exercise regimens. The findings revealed that exercising after meals substantially lowered blood glucose levels in comparison to fasting or exercising before meals.

It is important to note that everyone's response to exercise may vary, and we recommend working with a healthcare provider to develop an exercise plan that is safe and effective for your individual needs. All of our programs have the option to add a personalized exercise routine created by an exercise physiologist. Click here to learn more. 

Additionally, regular physical activity is more important than timing, so finding a time that works best for you and fits into your daily routine is key to making exercise a consistent part of your diabetes management plan.


Does high-intensity exercise spike blood glucose?

High-intensity exercise may increase blood glucose levels in those with type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance. This primarily occurs for the following reasons: (1) the release of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol and (2) the breakdown and release of stored glycogen in muscles into the bloodstream.

The extent of this glucose spike depends on individual factors such as fitness level, medication regimen, and diet. Physically fit individuals with well-managed diabetes may experience a smaller increase in blood glucose levels during high-intensity exercise compared to less fit individuals or those with poorly managed diabetes.

While high-intensity exercise may temporarily elevate blood glucose levels, consistent exercise offers long-term benefits for blood glucose control and overall health. Regular physical activity can improve insulin sensitivity, reduce insulin resistance, and steadily decrease blood glucose levels.

For those with diabetes, working with a healthcare provider to create a safe and effective exercise plan tailored to individual needs is recommended. All of our programs have the option to add a personalized exercise routine created by an exercise physiologist. You can learn more here. 

Monitoring blood glucose levels before, during, and after exercise can also help you adjust your exercise routine to achieve optimal blood glucose control.


A few great exercises to help lower blood sugar levels

As an exercise physiologist and co-founder of Reversing T2D, Jose is well-versed in various exercises that can effectively enhance blood sugar control. In the videos below, you'll find demonstrations and examples of such exercises.


Check out the above video for some exercises you can do at home without any equipment.

Check out the above video for more examples of muscle-building exercises that do not require any equipment.

Check out the above video for some examples of using resistance bands to build muscle and improve your blood sugar. Click here to purchase resistance bands to try these strength training exercises yourself.


Let's Recap: How Exercise Affects Blood Sugar

In conclusion, regular exercise is an essential part of managing type 2 diabetes. In addition to helping regulate blood sugar levels, it’s also great for improving cardiovascular health, managing weight, reducing stress, and improving overall health and well-being. By incorporating regular exercise into your routine, you can take control of your health and manage type 2 diabetes more effectively. 

For more information on how to take control of your type 2 diabetes, click here to register for our free Blood Sugar Transformation Workshop.



[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5580296/  

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