How Do I Get Started?

By Canadian Diabetes Care Guide posted in Physical Activity

Senior woman with trainerTake time to think about what activities you enjoy. If you don’t like riding stationary bicycles, then don’t. Find what you do like. The only consideration is to keep impact exercises to a minimum if you have any foot complications, such as neuropathy. Look for opportunities to increase your activity throughout the day. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as brisk walking, dancing or biking per week. Spread it out over at least 3 non-consecutive days of the week with no more than 2 consecutive days in between.

Set a realistic goal. Start with just 10 minutes of an activity like walking 4 days of the week. As you become fit you can increase to 30 minutes 5 days of the week. You will find a Sample Walking Program below.

Enrol in a group exercise class. It‘s a good way of not only getting your body in shape but also getting out and meeting people.

Add some resistance training. Research has shown that moving a weight with your muscles, known commonly as resistance training, is beneficial when you have diabetes.


Week 1 
This program is based on walking 4 times per week. All sessions include a 5 minute warm-up period of stretching/flexibility exercises and walking slowly to start. Then pick up the pace so that for the next 5 minutes you are walking briskly. Cool down by walking slowly for the next 5 minutes. The total exercise time is 15 minutes.

Week 2
Continue walking 4 times per week. All sessions include a 5 minute warm-up period of stretching/flexibility and walking slowly to start. Then pick up the pace so that for the next 7 minutes you are walking briskly. Cool down by walking slowly for the next 5 minutes. The total exercise time is 17 minutes.

Weeks 3 to 12
Continue the program as indicated in week 2 but now increase to 9 minutes of brisk walking. Continue this basic pattern for 12 weeks, increasing the brisk walking by 2 minutes each week up to a maximum of 30 minutes of brisk walking by the twelfth week. By this time you might well be looking for a further challenge and in that case you may add some other forms of exercise that you can comfortably enjoy. It’s a good idea to check your pulse periodically to make sure that you are within your (THR) range.



A pedometer is a great way to track how active you really are. The average person takes anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 steps in a day with a normal routine. Some researchers have suggested that taking 10,000 steps a day leads to a healthier you. 10,000 steps are roughly equal to 8 kilometers (5 miles).

To use a pedometer, wear it for a few days to see what your usual daily step total is. When you have this number, set a goal to increase it by 500 steps. When you achieve the new goal for several days in a row, set a new one… and you are on your way!

When each step is tracked – you will soon be looking for ways to collect more. Parking a little farther away from an entrance, taking an extra loop around the mall…or just walking with a friend, all contribute to more steps.

When choosing a pedometer, there are several points to consider. Check to see if the brand is accurate. A strap to secure the pedometer to your belt is helpful if your pedometer slips off your waistband. A cover will protect the button from accidentally being reset. A one button model is the easiest to use. Happy stepping!

Physical activity can have an effect on your blood glucose for up to 12 hours. When getting started, check your blood glucose just before and right after your activity, as well as in several hours after your activity stops. It is a great way to see the benefit of physical activity. It also helps you watch for any potential low blood glucose levels if you are at risk.

If you take medication that increases insulin release, or you take insulin injections, take a snack along in case your blood glucose runs low.  Discuss some healthy snack ideas with your diabetes educator. Review low blood glucose levels with your educator, and find out if you are at risk. If you are, always carry glucose tablets with you in case your blood glucose drops too low.

  • Begin gradually and work at your preplanned pace.
  • Try to be physically active on a regular basis to establish a comfortable routine.
  • Carry glucose tablets if they are required.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Your feet are important. Make sure your shoes fit well and that you replace them on a regular basis. Your athletic shoes wear out on the inside far sooner than the outside, so pay attention. Check your shoes on the inside for any rough areas or small objects.
  • Wear medical identification – it will speak for you when you can’t.

Occasionally, there are times when you should not continue your physical activity.

  • On your doctor ’s advice.
  • If you are nauseated or have abdominal pain.
  • If your blood glucose is less than 4 mmol/L, until you have a snack.
  • If your morning or pre-meal blood glucose is above 14 mmol/L and there are ketones in your urine.
  • If there are climate extremes and your activity is out of doors – too cold or too hot, excessive humidity or pollution alerts.

Make physical activity a regular part of your day – you are worth it.

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About the Author

The Canadian Diabetes Care Guide's articles are written by Diabetes Professionals for people with diabetes. We provide information about diabetes, diabetes health care providers, complications associated with uncontrolled diabetes and tools to manage their condition. Our mission is to help people with diabetes stay healthy and successfully manage their diabetes.