10 Tips for Walking with Diabetes

The experts agree -- walking and other exercise is the prescription for people with diabetes. The American Diabetes Association says there is no restriction on what exercise people with diabetes can do, and it is the best way to prevent weight gain and cardiovascular disease -- the top killer of people with diabetes.

Get Into the Walking Habit

Mature couple walking on natural path
Siri Stafford/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Make exercise a regular part of your life. Experts agree that people with diabetes should exercise several days each week. To get started with walking, use this Quick Start 30-Day Plan

More »

Choose the Right Shoes

Lacing Your Shoes
Lacing Your Shoes. PeopleImages.com/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Taking care of your feet and preventing blisters is important for diabetics, as the disease slows wound healing. Properly fitted athletic shoes will help prevent blisters and other injuries, such as plantar fasciitis. The Walking Shoe Guide explains how to get fitted properly for walking shoes.

More »

Socks are Important

Balega Enduro Socks
Balega Enduro Socks. Wendy Bumgardner ©

Socks are also a critical defense against blisters. Toss out your cotton socks; they retain sweat and can cause blisters. Get socks made of today's miracle fabrics (such as CoolMax and Ultimax) that wick away sweat and prevent blisters.
Before You Buy Walking Socks

More »

Check Your Blood Sugar Levels

Check your blood sugar levels before and after walking.

  • Too low: below 100 mg/dl. If too low, you should eat some carbohydrates -- 15 to 30 grams.
  • Too high: over 250 mg/dl if Type 2, or over 200 mg/dl if Type 1. If too high, you need to postpone your walk until your blood sugar level lowers.
  • When out on a long walk, it is wise to check your blood sugar levels at regular intervals, especially if you are new to walking.

More: Exercise and Diabetes

More »

When to Walk

The best time for walking is 1 to 2 hours after a meal, when your insulin and blood sugar levels have settled down. Morning exercise is recommended, since it avoids the peak insulin part of the day, especially for people with Type 1 diabetes.
More: Diabetes Pre-Workout Checklist

Your Insulin Dosage May Change

Your insulin requirements will change with exercise. When starting a walking program or increasing your amount of exercise, consult with your physician regularly on how to adjust your medications.
More: Insulin Use in Diabetes

Drink Enough!

Drink up to prevent dehydration, which you may not notice until it is too late. Have a big glass of water an hour before walking, then drink a cup of water every 20 minutes while walking. At the end of your walk, drink another big glass of water. For long, hot walks of 2 hours or more, consider a sports drink that replaces salts, but check the carbohydrate content on the label.
More: Drinking for Fitness Walkers

Eating and Walking

Carry a snack for when you or your walking partner detects signs of low blood sugar. After walking, you may need to eat more carbohydrates than usual to prevent delayed hypoglycemia. Especially when starting or increasing your walking program, be extra aware of symptoms and signs, listen to your body, and consult your doctor with any questions on diet.
More: Exercise with Diabetes

Know the Signs of Hypoglycemia

When walking, stay aware of your body and how you are feeling. It can be difficult to tell whether you are sweating from exertion or hypoglycemia. Here are symptoms, courtesy of NIH: feeling weak, drowsy, confused, hungry, and dizzy. Paleness, headache, irritability, trembling, sweating, rapid heart beat, and a cold, clammy feeling. In severe cases, you could lapse into a coma.
More: Hypoglycemia

Buddy Up and Wear an Alert Bracelet

Walking with a partner or walking club has several benefits. First, you can have him watch you for signs of low blood sugar and nag you to take care of yourself. Second, walking with somebody else keeps you more regular in your exercise. In any case, wear a medical identification bracelet that says you have diabetes. That is critical in a medical emergency.
More: How to Find Walking Companions


"What I need to know about Physical Activity and Diabetes." NIH Publication No. 14-5180. May, 2014

"Walking: A Step in the Right Direction." NIH Publication No. 07-4155. Updated February, 2014

Continue Reading