mySugr logoClose side menu

Download and try it now!

  • Get it on Google Play
  • Download at the App Store
Language selection
Language selection inactive
  • Selected English


  • Selected English (US)

    English (US)

  • Selected Deutsch


Living with Diabetes

How to Manage Aerobic vs. Anaerobic Exercise with Diabetes

12/9/2021 by mySugr

How to Manage Aerobic vs. Anaerobic Exercise with Diabetes

Regular physical activity is important for managing your diabetes.[i] Not only does it help the body use insulin more effectively, but the blood sugar lowering benefits of exercise can last for hours after your workout. Exercise also helps in weight management, stress management and is linked to a lower risk of heart disease.

There are two specific types of exercise: aerobic exercise and anaerobic exercise. The main differences between the two include:

  • The oxygen needed to do the activity
  • The length and intensity of the activity
  • Where your body gets the fuel for the activity

Both types offer unique benefits and come with some specific challenges for people with diabetes.

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic, or cardiovascular, exercise requires oxygen to generate energy. Think of it as a type of activity that you can maintain with an elevated breathing rate. Moderate-intensity activities like brisk walking, jogging, and swimming are considered aerobic exercises.

During aerobic exercise, your body uses glucose from your blood as the fuel. This means that after 30 minutes or more of aerobic activity, blood sugar gets lower.

Who can do it? Talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise plan. Everyone medical able should engage in aerobic exercise. Regular cardiovascular activity can reduce the risk of heart disease.[ii]

How to do it? The great thing about aerobic exercise is that you can do it anywhere. Try a swim at a local pool. Talk a walk with your dog. Try a brisk jog in a nearby park. Remember that identifying activities you enjoy is key to sticking with your exercise plan.

Aerobic Exercise Tips:

  • Tip #1 – Through trial and error, figure out whether you need to reduce your typical insulin dose before aerobic exercise. Everyone is different.
  • Tip #2 – Know the signs of low blood sugar. If you’ll be exercising for more than 30 minutes, you have a higher risk of a low.
  • Tip #3 – Have fast-acting carbs on hand for a snack if your blood sugar gets too low while exercising.

Anaerobic Exercise

Anaerobic exercise differs from aerobic exercise in the sense that oxygen isn’t required to create energy. Sometimes just called resistance training, anaerobic exercise is usually more intense. Activities that can only be maintained for short periods, such as weightlifting, are considered anaerobic. Instead of using glucose from your bloodstream, your muscles use stored glycogen to fuel your body.

Who can do it? Talk to your doctor before beginning a resistance-training program. It may also be a good idea to work with a trainer for a short time. Learning proper technique is important to reducing the risk of injury while getting a good workout.

How to do it? You can work out with equipment at a gym, such as resistance machines or free weights. However, home workouts can work, too. Bodyweight exercises like push-ups, squats, and abdominal planks are all great ways to add anaerobic exercise to your day without hitting the gym.

Anaerobic Exercise Tips:

  • Tip #1 – Work with your doctor to figure out how much you need to adjust your insulin. Intense physical exertion can actually raise blood sugar.[iii] Discuss whether you need to increase insulin before anaerobic exercise with your care team.
  • Tip #2 – Pay attention to your blood sugar. Blood glucose can rise fast if you’re exercising at a high intensity. Check your levels often. Remember that hyperglycemia can affect performance and your health.

Tip #3 – Check blood sugar when you’re done. Levels can rise for up to an hour after intense activity.[iv]

You Need Both Aerobic and Anaerobic Activity

For optimal health, both aerobic and anaerobic activity are important. Persons with diabetes should aim for 150 minutes per week of aerobic exercise and two or three sessions of anaerobic (resistance) exercise per week.[v]

Balancing insulin dosing, carb intake, and exercise may take a bit of trial and error. But don’t be discouraged. It gets easier. And when you work with your healthcare team, you can find the right balance and enjoy the benefits of both aerobic and anaerobic exercise.








The mySugr website does not provide medical or legal advice. mySugr blog articles are not scientific articles, but intended for informational purposes only.
Medical or nutritional information on the mySugr website is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult a physician or health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


Make diabetes suck less! It's our mission, our motto, our way of life. We're thrilled you stopped by. Learn more about our products. Learn more about our company.