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Diabetes mellitus is a chronic metabolic disease characterised by elevated fasting blood glucose levels. This can be due to defects in the cells in the pancreas that secrete insulin (T1DM) or the inability of the body’s cells to effectively respond to insulin that is produced (T2DM). About 10-15% of all cases of diabetes are T1DM, while 85-90% of all cases are T2DM. If not managed correctly, glucose builds up in the bloodstream and can cause damage to organs in the body such as the kidneys, eyes and heart. 


Alongside insulin injections and medications, exercise plays a vital role in the management of diabetes mellitus. Exercise cannot reverse the damage to the pancreas cells that has led to a decreased production of insulin, however, exercise improves the way muscles respond to insulin, which helps to regulate blood glucose for some hours after exercise. Exercise can therefore lower the dose of insulin required to clear glucose from the bloodstream, reducing stress on the already damaged pancreas cells. Exercise also increases glucose uptake by the muscles in other ways that do not depend on insulin. 


Exercise can help to: 

  • Prevent or delay the development of diabetes (in pre-diabetes) 

  • Improve cardiovascular health and fitness 

  • Increase muscle mass and strength 

  • Decrease the proportion of body fat 

  • Reduce symptoms of depression 

  • Improve quality of life 


Links to fact sheets: (Type 1) (Type 2) 

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