5 exercise tips to control high blood glucose levels

A high blood glucose level (which may also be referred to as a high blood sugar level) can be actively controlled through exercise.

Rather than just throwing yourself into the gym, consider these five tips to attack those high sugar levels in a smarter way:

1. Aerobic exercise

We use both fat and carbohydrate for energy during the day, however at certain intensities of exercise, your body switches from mainly burning stored fat to mainly burning stored carbohydrates, which brings the total level of sugar in your body down. By spending the recommended 30 minutes a day (with no more than two days between sessions) on an aerobic workouts at roughly level five to sevenof your perceived exertion you will use a good amount of carbohydrate and in doing so help to control blood sugar levels.

If you keep this up whilst also monitoring your carbohydrate intake over time your body will actually become better at dealing with sugar. You become more efficient at metabolising (processing) sugar from the blood even when you aren’t exerting yourself. You also enlarge something known as your ‘metabolic sink’ and therefore can store sugars more efficiently when required.

2. Resistance exercise

Carrying out resistance exercises twice a week helps improve muscle mass and efficiency, which is also an important factor in blood pressure control. When you live a lazy lifestyle and eat foods you know you should avoid, cells in the body become less efficient at processing sugars from the blood.

Just like aerobic workouts, resistance improves the sensitivity of the cells’ response to insulin, and therefore the processing of sugar improves.

3. HIT training

High Intensity Training is another great way to utilise muscular carbohydrates and increase the size of your ‘metabolic sink’. Research shows that this exercise can also boost the sensitivity of cells to insulin resulting in more efficient processing of carbohydrate.

However, anyone who has had previous cardiovascular or metabolic issues should seek advice before pursuing this option.

4. Reduce sedentary time

Try to minimize the time you spend not being active. If you have a desk job, make sure you take breaks during the day to stretch your legs.

If you know you spend lots of time sitting at home, try to build in time to get up and get the blood pumping.

5. Be smarter about when you exercise

If you know that exercise makes you ravenous as soon as you have stopped, you should avoid exercising later in the evening. Give your body a chance to use the sugar you consume by needing to process less excess carbohydrate during periods in which you are completely sedentary i.e. when you go to bed.

This doesn’t mean you need to give up certain types of food, but you should be more mindful of when you exercise. For instance, if you are going for a Sunday roast, getting in a session of exercise pre-meal can help you make room in the ‘metabolic sink’, preparing your body for the absorption of sugars. 

Last updated Wednesday 21 December 2022

First published on Wednesday 30 March 2016