Does Working Out Increase Blood Sugar Levels?

If you’re a diabetic, you may be wondering if working out will increase your blood sugar levels. The answer isn’t always simple, as it depends on a number of factors. However, we’ll break it down for you so you can make the best decision for your health.


Maintaining ideal blood glucose (sugar) levels is an important part of overall health and well-being. Research suggests that exercise can play a significant role in managing blood glucose levels and many people employ exercise as part of their diabetes management plans. Understanding the science behind how working out increases blood sugar levels, as well as knowing how to take preventive action against its effects, can be beneficial in keeping blood sugar in a safe range.

Generally speaking, physical activity can lead to short-term elevation of blood glucose levels. When working out, your body breaks down some carbohydrates and fats for energy production using insulin to help process it. Without sufficient amounts of insulin circulating in your system – or when your body cannot properly use the available insulin — this process could cause your glucose levels to rise much higher than usual, potentially putting you at risk for a long-term decrease in insulin sensitivity.

Understanding Blood Sugar

Understanding the relationship between physical activity and blood sugar levels is a key part of being able to manage diabetes. Exercise is known to have a positive effect on blood sugar, but it is also possible that it can have a negative effect. In this article, we’ll look at what the science says regarding this relationship and how to regulate it.

How Blood Sugar Works

Blood sugar, or glucose, is the main source of energy in the human body. Its levels are regulated by two hormones: insulin, produced by the pancreas, and glucagon, produced by the liver. When we eat a meal, our blood sugar levels rise as glucose moves from our intestines into our bloodstream. In response to rising sugar levels, insulin is released to help cells absorb glucose and provide us with energy.

Glucose also has other functions in the body beyond providing energy; it’s necessary for normal cellular functioning and being able to think clearly. When there is a shortage of glucose in the body — either due to fasting or extreme exercise — glucagon is released to help break down stored energy reserves and release them into the bloodstream.

Working out can have different effects on blood sugar depending on what type of activity you do and how long it lasts. Generally speaking, activities like biking or running will cause your blood sugar levels to dip slightly from their original starting point as your cells absorb some of this newly available energy source; this result is especially pronounced with longer durations of exercise (>1 hour). On the other hand, strength training can cause your blood sugar levels to rise due to its reliance on glycolysis (breakdown of glycogen stored in muscles).

Normal Blood Sugar Levels

Maintaining normal blood sugar levels is critical for optimal health. But what are normal blood sugar levels? Blood glucose (sugar) consists of glucose molecules that travel in the bloodstream and are regulated by two hormones, insulin and glucagon. Both these hormones work together to keep a person’s blood sugar levels within the recommended range of 70-99 mg/dL.

The body naturally adjusts blood sugar levels throughout the day and working out can temporarily elevate them. To reach a target level of 70-99 mg/dL, your body must have enough insulin, which helps remove glucose from the bloodstream and transport it into cells where it can be used for energy. If you have prolonged or strenuous exercise, your body may need more insulin to help maintain healthy blood sugar levels afterwards.

Your doctor can also help you assess your current fitness level and advise on proper nutrition to ensure your liver maintains healthy levels of glycogen in storage, so that when sugar is needed during exercise it is readily available and not pulled from the bloodstream at an excessive rate. Following a healthy diet filled with nutrient-rich foods will also assist your body in ensuring normal blood sugar regulation through fluctuating physical activity or caloric intake. Based on lifestyle assessment, your doctor may recommend specific nutritional guidelines or medication adjustment as needed to regulate ideal blood pressure for optimal health outcomes.

Effects of Exercise on Blood Sugar

For people with diabetes, understanding the effects of exercise on blood sugar levels is an important part of managing their condition. Many studies have been conducted to evaluate how physical activity affects blood sugar, but the results can be conflicting. In this article, we’ll take a look at the effects of working out on blood sugar levels and how people with diabetes can best manage it.

Short-term Effects

Research indicates that regular exercise can improve blood sugar levels and increase insulin sensitivity, especially for those with Type 2 diabetes. Short-term effects of exercise on blood sugar can vary greatly depending on the type of activity, its intensity, and overall health status.

Aerobic exercise—such as brisk walking or swimming—has been studied most extensively in this area and seems to produce the greatest benefits. Immediate improvements in glucose tolerance have been reported during one session of aerobic exercise, but it may take several weeks before significant changes in fasting blood glucose levels are seen. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) may also be beneficial when used as part of a long-term diabetes management plan.

Strength training is an important part of keeping muscles healthy, but it isn’t known to have quite as dramatic or immediate an effect on a person’s metabolic profile as aerobic exercise does. Strength training is likely best used in combination with other methods like diet control and medication for optimal effect.

The effects of single bouts of activity are relatively short-lived; however, research has found evidence that regular physical activity can eventually lead to more consistent regulation of blood glucose levels and improved overall metabolic health over time. In addition to helping manage blood sugar levels directly, exercising regularly can help maintain a healthy weight and reduce risk factors for other chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease or stroke.

Long-term Effects

Exercise has a number of beneficial long-term effects on blood sugar levels, even for individuals with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes. The American Diabetes Association recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week. Research shows that maintaining an active lifestyle can help stabilize blood sugar and reduce the need for medication to keep glucose levels in check.

One way regular exercise helps manage elevated sugar is by increasing insulin sensitivity in muscle cells. When glucose lingers in the bloodstream instead of being used as fuel, the body responds by releasing more insulin to bring sugars down. Over time, those who are very active will become more sensitive to insulin and require less production in order to pull glucose out of the bloodstream and into cells where it can be used as energy.

Long-term exercise also has positive metabolic effects such as improving cholesterol levels and reducing inflammation within the body — things that impact overall health and well-being, not just blood sugar levels. Strength training can help increase muscle mass which allows for improved body composition over time, along with improved energy output during physical activity. Regular aerobic exercise also strengthens heart health, helps minimize various risk factors for conditions like stroke or heart attack, and releases feel good hormones like endorphins that boost your overall mood.

Benefits of Exercise on Blood Sugar

Exercise can be an integral part of a healthy lifestyle, especially when it comes to managing blood sugar levels. Research has shown that regular physical activity can improve glucose control and help to reduce the risk of long-term complications. But how exactly does exercise affect blood sugar levels? Let’s dive into the details to find out.

Improved Insulin Sensitivity

One of the primary benefits of regular exercise for people with diabetes is an increase in insulin sensitivity. Any type of physical-activity helps reduce blood sugar levels, which lowers the amount of insulin required to move sugar from the blood into cells. Exercise also increases sensitivity to insulin, making it easier for cells to absorb glucose.

The increase in insulin sensitivity, combined with improved glucose metabolism can help reduce symptoms of diabetes, while also decreasing medication intake. Even small amounts of exercise have been shown to lower basal levels, improve response to meals and improve overall glycemic control. Exercise has also been found to reduce all-cause mortality risk and cardiovascular-related complications further emphasizing its importance in diabetes management.

In addition to improved glucose metabolism through better control of both basal and meal-time requirements and improved physiological functioning that helps decrease side effects related to excessive use of medications, other benefits include increased energy levels, improved emotional wellbeing and increased strength & endurance resulting from regular physical activity or exercise.

Improved Blood Sugar Control

Exercising regularly can help reduce blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity, according to the American Diabetes Association. Specifically, research has shown that aerobic exercise can lower blood glucose levels for up to 24 hours after exercising. It may also reduce the need for diabetes medication in people with type 2 diabetes. Strength training has been found to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in those who are at risk and can also aid in maintaining normal and healthy blood sugar levels long-term. For those managing their diabetes, it’s important to work with your healthcare provider and dietitian before beginning a new exercise program as they can provide valuable advice regarding how to adjust your medications, diet, and meal timing while engaging in physical activity.

Precautions to Take

Working out can be beneficial for many aspects of health, but it can also have potential drawbacks. For those with diabetes or prediabetes, exercising can increase their blood sugar levels. Before engaging in physical activity, it is important to understand the precautions to take in order to keep blood sugar levels in a safe range. Here, we will explore the steps you can take to stay safe and healthy when working out.

Monitor Blood Sugar Levels

When engaging in physical activities such as working out, it is important to monitor your blood sugar levels. Exercising has a direct effect on blood sugar levels, so it is important to know your target blood sugar level before starting a workout. Low activity may cause blood sugar levels to drop below optimal ranges while high intensity activity can cause an increase in blood glucose rates. By understanding the effect of exercise on your body and actively monitoring your glucose before, during and after physical activities, you can ensure that healthy lifestyle goals are met and maintain safe levels of activity consistency.

To properly monitor one’s blood glucose during exercise, first consult with a healthcare provider to determine an appropriate pre-exercise level target range. After every workout, assess post-workout glucose level changes by testing at least 1 hour following the conclusion of exercise. Automating these processes with the assistance of tracking software or wearable devices can be effective for staying up-to-date with personal health goals. Be mindful when testing too frequently, as skin irritation from needles can negatively affect overall data accuracy due to the inaccuracy created from repeatedly breaking through skin surfaces!

Talk to Your Doctor

It is important to talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program, especially if you have diabetes. They may need to adjust your medication or monitor for low blood sugar levels if needed. Also make sure to tell them about any physical activity that you are involved in.

Your doctor can also provide some helpful tips on how to manage your diabetes while exercising. For example, they can suggest how and when to test your blood sugar levels, what type of snacks and fluids are best for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels during and after exercise, and other strategies such as carbohydrate loading before a long workout.

Additionally, it is recommended that someone with diabetes should not start an intense exercise program all at once but rather gradually build up their physical activity intensity over time. Moreover, some people with diabetes might need a short rest period of several minutes after every 10-15 minutes of continuous activity to help avoid low blood sugar reactions and dehydration. Finally, make sure that you have a fast-acting source of carbohydrates present during the workout in case there are signs of hypoglycemia (low blood glucose).


By introducing and maintaining an exercise regimen which is individualized to meet your specific needs, it is possible to take advantage of the naturally-occurring glucose found in your muscles and the increased sensitivity it will create to create a healthy balance.

The effects of exercise on blood sugar levels are indeed complex, but with the right combination of exercise frequency, duration and intensity, as well as proper diet, medical monitoring and hypoglycemia awareness, you can find the perfect balance for yourself. Working out is an important part of a healthy lifestyle that can help you manage your blood sugar levels, as well as other health issues. If you have any questions or concerns about how exercise specifically affects your diabetes treatment plan, be sure to talk it through with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

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